Thursday, November 7, 2013
Art Show Press: A Learning Experience
See you Saturday, Nov 9th 6 - 9PM
HOLLINGSWORTH GALLERY, Palm Coast, FL
Artist of the Year: Christine Sullivan
by Shanna Fortier
Christine Sullivan sat in the classroom at Hollingsworth Gallery last week looking at the wall where she temporarily had hung two pieces for her upcoming show — the same wall that was her painting space just three years ago when she began taking classes with J.J. Graham.
“This is where it started,” she said, looking around the room. “I never had any vision about where I wanted to be; I just wanted to learn. The journey is always about getting better.”
And learn she has. Sullivan has been selected as the 2013 Gargiulo Art Foundation’s Artist of the Year.
“I can’t find the words,” Sullivan said. “It’s such an honor — to be in the same pool with other people that have received this award — I’m excited, I’m joyful. To get work seen by more people is really exciting, but to get your work acknowledged is off the charts.”
Sullivan is a fourth-generation painter. Her house growing up was filled with art — prints of the masters and the work of her great-grandfather.
“Art was always in my blood,” she said.
She went to Plymouth State University for two reasons: to ski and to study art education. While in school exploring silk screen print making and 3D-sculpting among others, Sullivan fell in love with geography. She changed her major five times, but eventually ended with a degree in geography and an art minor.
“As a painter, geography is the focus of everything I do: the relationship with the sense of place and the people that reside in it — people and the land," she said. "The land has an imprint on us.”
Sullivan worked in the corporate world but took up watercolor painting after having a baby.
“I found that if I did it every day, it was so good for my soul,” she said of painting. “What’s funny is I quickly found that I had a style that was unique to me.”
Her living room was her art studio, and she was teaching her daughter to paint, until one day it wasn’t fun anymore. In 1999, she packed up painting all together and didn’t touch a brush again for 10 years. She retired and moved to Palm Coast in 2009, which is where her story with oil painting begins.
Sullivan’s inspiration to retire and begin panting again came from her mother, who had retired to Cape Cod and became a successful painter.
“I saw what joy it brought to her,” Sullivan said while fighting back tears remembering her mother who died last year. “She would be so proud of me.”
Graham is also extremely proud of his pupil.
“She fell in love with learning how to paint and not being an artist,” Graham said. “She buried herself in the studio for a year, and she would show up and ask questions and then rush to her studio and do her own experiments. She wasn’t concerned in showing work yet. That is, to me, why she succeeded.”
Sullivan calls her style "representational abstract." She explored a lot of abstract, but kept coming back to a small bit of reality. She had to have something there to recognize.
“There’s that feeling when you see a painting that looks familiar,” she said.
While most people would classify her work as landscape painting, Sullivan stressed the sense of place.
“We mirror so much in relation to the earth,” Sullivan said, referencing the tides and the animals that migrate through our land. “All of this, I think, is connected, and that’s something I try to touch on with my paintings without putting it so literally.”
Her colors come from her heart. The grays, greens and whites are the colors that she sees every day in the beach community.
What started as a hobby for Sullivan to supplement a retired life of golf and the beach has turned into a second career.
“I paint every day,” she said. “It’s no longer something to do to keep me busy. It’s something to do that helps me breathe.”
Tom Gargiulo said the foundation took a risk this year by choosing Sullivan, a young, up-and-coming artist, for the top honor because previous Artists of the Year have had decades of experience.
But Sullivan said she is not done yet.
“My goals are usually day-to-day, just to continue to grow and get better,” she said. “Let’s enjoy the party and then let’s get back to work.”