Uncompromising Great-Grandmother is Still Raising the “Real”Art Scene

Connie Bostic knew Asheville before it knew itself.
Photo by Matt Rose

In 1991, artist Connie Bostic opened Zone one, downtown Asheville’s first contemporary art gallery. For about a decade, the space was a vital creative incubator, social hub, and artistic platform. Bostic exhibited both local artists and luminaries such as the late Robert Mapplethorpe and Keith Haring. She still attracts, engages, provokes, advocates, and inspires while introducing artists to the vibrant community she was so instrumental in creating.

My phone autocorrected your name to Connie Botticelli.

Oh, that’s hysterical! Talk about Freudian slips. (laughter)

Your work’s been receiving a lot of attention lately.

If you make a certain kind of work, tourists buy it. If you don’t make that kind of work, you have to live to be 90. Then if they think you’re going to die, they get interested.

The Camp

Are you painting a lot?

I spent the last four days making elephant tusks out of papier-mâché for my grandson’s school play. But I have a solo show coming up about girls growing up and their expectations. How sometimes things work out well and sometimes they don’t.

What were society’s expectations of you?

To be home ironing and having babies. Which I did. I had five of them. Now I have my first great-grandchild. She’s three weeks old and a source of amazement. … But I was told all my life I couldn’t be an artist, and I think lack of confidence slows you down more than anything else. It’s important to know that being different is okay, because everyone is unique. If you honor that, it’s a good thing. 

You’ll Never See Your Kids Again

Was being different in Asheville difficult at first?

I was not accepted that easily. I moved here and the first question I was asked was, “Which of the Baptist churches do you go to?” When I said “none,” my children were ostracized. 

I’m sorry to hear that. Didn’t you open a club?

A gay bar [Craig’s]. I was told it was possibly the best in the Southeast. I was working as the hostess in this restaurant that served liquor from 11am to 4am. When I walked away from that, we opened the bar. Then it became a music club for a while. It’s the most fun I ever had. We had art exhibits there, too. I sold more art there than I did at Zone one. 

That’s astonishing, because Zone one was the art-scene epicenter.

But every dime we made at the bar went right back into it. I have a long history of not making money, no matter what. If I have a job, I’ve got money, but I don’t have time to do the things I want to do. But if I don’t have a job, I don’t have money, and still can’t do the things I want to do.

You Had It Coming

It’s a balancing act.

And I’m managing to stay upright.

Back then, Asheville had a grittiness that contributed a certain creative energy. 

I call it reality. Now everything’s a façade. We’ve lost the soul. But I think it’s really important to focus on the good. A lot of people try to do the right thing for the right reason. What they do is what really matters.

For instance?

The rebirth of the [Asheville Area] Arts Council — they are having great exhibitions and doing lots of community outreach. Mars Hill University [Weizenblatt Gallery] is having great exhibits. We’re so lucky to have DeWayne Barton’s Peace Garden in West Asheville. Revolve [project space] is doing amazing things, and is fearless in what they present. The new director at Black Mountain College [Museum + Arts Center] is fabulous, and he’s moving mountains. 

Any advice for artists struggling to find their own voice?

I don’t think it’s a struggle you can win. It’s a process that goes on every day. Finding your voice is lifelong. 

What about inspiration?

Sometimes your most creative period is when you aren’t doing anything. It’s not always when you have the brush in your hand. Sometimes you just need to be quiet. Sometimes being quiet is the best thing you can do.

The artist has been advocating hard for the Asheville arts scene since she opened a contemporary gallery in 1991. Her own work addresses social-justice issues, particularly domestic violence. Bostic’s upcoming exhibit at Pink Dog Creative, till death, juxtaposes the promise of love and protection in marriage versus the sometimes crushing reality.

Connie Bostic, Fairview. Pink Dog Creative Gallery (348 Depot St. in Asheville’s River Arts District, pinkdog-creative.com) will host Bostic’s solo show “till death” Friday, June 14 through Sunday, July 14, with an opening reception June 14 from 5:30-7:30pm. Bostic’s work is also included in Pink Dog’s poetry -and-visual-arts exhibit “In Times Like These,” on display through June 9. For more information, reach the artist at conbostic@gmail.com.

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