A painting or pen-and-ink drawing by Cyrus Glance is instantly recognizable through his urgent strokes and keen, idiosyncratic rendering of the world around him. He illustrates everyday moments, and those tend to multiply. Asked how many works he does in a month, the artist hesitates.
“This is a tricky question,” he says. The answer depends partly on the demands of his job, adds Glance, who works night shifts as a Certified Nursing Assistant. “In November, I did 38 [pieces]. In December, I did 14.” (The artist also battled a case of COVID-19 the last month of 2020.)
As Glance prepares for his first large-scale solo exhibit at Mars Hill University’s Weizenblatt Gallery, he talks modestly about his work, though the work itself is anything but. The vivid colors, bold imagination, and sometimes almost shocking intimacy of his compositions are not the products of a timid creativity.
But, although personal, Glance’s view of the world never feels selfish. In his artistic life, he tries to create something he describes as both autobiographical and community-focused.
“There’s always an aesthetic experience to be had and shared. When I share my art, my perceptions, my world expands — and then I draw from that expanded world. It’s almost a stream-of-consciousness of all that unfurls around me.”
His work has been championed by such high-profile local creatives as painter Julyan Davis and public-art sculptor David Sheldon. With Glance, says Sheldon, “everyone and every situation, every dream and subconscious vision, is expressed … [with] a clearly defined, animated approach.” He compares Glance to Courbet, the 19th-century French painter “whose command of Realism broke the notions of how beauty was defined in art.”
An Asheville native, Glance recalls a particularly supportive second-grade teacher who allowed him to hang his own little gallery in the hallway outside the classroom. He took art classes in high school and college, but is primarily self-taught. “I got into the Expressionists, then the Surrealists. It took me a long time, though, to treat my art as a kind of self-narration and stop trying to imitate others’ dreams.”
He quit drawing for almost ten years because of “life stuff,” he says — “you know, full-time day job, the financial needs to support a family. … After putting it away for so long, I didn’t have a lot of ideas when I started drawing again. I begin just drawing selfies, mine and others’. Through that I decided I wanted to focus on my own personal experience, how I felt in my immediate surroundings.”
On Instagram, Glance describes his work as “the aesthetics of the transitory.” He admits to borrowing the line from the quirky ’90s TV series Northern Exposure — “you know, the episode where Chris tries to build a trebuchet to fling a cow” — but it’s as close as anything else to describing the guiding philosophy behind his work.
“I’m always trying to catch the beauty and essence of the moment,” he says. “Everything ephemeral. I take photos of everything. I paint them. People. Architecture. Scenes in the supermarket. Scenes in a parking lot. The view from my house. It feels important to me to try and grasp the particulars of how a passing moment feels.”
Cyrus Glance, Asheville. Glance’s solo exhibit Drawings and Paintings will be displayed at Weizenblatt Gallery Tuesday, Feb. 2 though Friday, Feb. 26 (79 Cascade St., Mars Hill University, mhu.edu/venue/weizenblatt-gallery). Glance will also be showing work in Drawing Discourse: The 12th Annual Exhibit of Contemporary Drawing, hosted by UNCA through Feb. 22 (accessible online at aah.unca.edu/exhibitions/drawing-discourse/12th-annual). For more information, see @CyrusGlance on Instagram or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.