Her process doesn’t require a lot of steps: “I just paint what pulls at my heart,” says Bee Sieburg, who’s been doing just that for nearly three decades in Asheville.
She’ll do a portrait of a wise-seeming goat who recalls her childhood goat, Margaret — “all my goats are named Margaret” — or a rural road with a fading family barn, similar to something she might have seen growing up in Tarboro, North Carolina, between Raleigh and the Outer Banks.
Sieburg’s vivid, impressionistic oil paintings capture flashes of joy and tiny, intentional moments — from the second a rabbit flicks its ear and turns to look at the viewer, to the rumpled throw pillow on a dear friend’s wing chair, waiting for its owner’s return.
Even before she began painting full time in 2001, Sieburg describes a life of beauty, remembering her mother’s flower arrangements filling the house. After a career as an elementary-school art teacher, Sieburg became a professional florist, a job that allowed her to spend each day working with “composition and creativity and thinking about something in a different way … with soul.” She and her daughter Molly Courcelle opened The Gardener’s Cottage, still operating in Biltmore Village, until they both decided it was time to leap into painting. (They now have side-by-side studios at The Wedge.)
Throughout the last decades, Sieburg has distinguished her body of work by painting tableaus of living spaces in homes: her own, those of her friends, and places she visits as she travels. She endeavors to capture something fundamental about the people who inhabit these rooms — which is why her friend Tillie’s home, for instance, is more interesting to her than any formal manor.
The intimacy shimmering out of these still lifes is no accident. “I’m crazy about the people [whose interiors I paint],” says Sieburg. “The house reflects the person.” In these canvases, a light may have been left on, a book put aside half read: the painter invites the viewer to value the same small, beautiful things the owner values.
Sieburg still teaches, offering classes in her studio, at local venues, and across the state. She speaks about how young children just “put [art] on a piece of paper and love doing it.” And she loves when adults who are timid or nervous end up with a unique painting that surprises them. Her students not only bring her joy but remind her to pursue her own work with the same sense of wonder and fearlessness.
A long-time cancer survivor, Sieburg calls herself a “walking-around miracle … I wouldn’t change a thing. When I go to work,
I do it with a skip in my step — my heart’s in it.”
Bee Sieburg, Wedge Studios, 129 South Roberts St., second floor, River Arts District, Asheville. Her work is also on display at Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood St., woolworthwalk.com); The Gardener’s Cottage (34 All Souls Crescent, thegardenerscottageasheville.com); K2 Studio (59 College St., k2furniture.com); and Seasons Gallery at the Omni Grove Park Inn (290 Macon Ave.). Visit beesieburg.com for more information.