Courage is a concept that many would find hard to portray in an image.
But that is just what Kathy Brusnighan asked of her friends when she decided to curate the “How Do You Paint Courage?” exhibit.
“I was asked to do a show at Cone Hospital, and it was over the holidays and so I took several pieces in,” Brusnighan said. “There was a lady that called me and said ‘I’m standing in the hall here and I’m petrified; I’m getting ready to have this procedure done and I’m so afraid but I’m standing in front of this painting and I know I’m going to be alright.’”
Brusnighan said that this was the moment she knew that her art had to be more than just pretty or just for her. She made it her goal to create art for her community that was healing and free.
This sparked the inspiration for the courage exhibit. She started calling up friends expecting about five of them to participate and when all was said and done she had accumulated 16 artists.
“We started out just thinking we’d be in a couple of hospitals or something and I got in touch with Circa Gallery in Asheboro and she really helped me form things,” Brusnighan said. “That’s when I realized that courage was bigger than just health so we sort of expanded it to anyone going to through a difficult time.”
The painters were asked to paint something that they thought would help someone going through a difficult time. Brusnighan said that all of the artists were hand picked friends of hers. Several of the artists even contacted her once they found out what she was planning.
“I think hearing my friends saying they wanted to be a part of this really touched me,” Brusnighan said. “To have them tell me that this is a really great idea it was very healing for me. It really validated me because I was stepping way out into something I had never done before.”
Karen Fridy, an artist in the exhibit and a Yadkin Arts Council board member, said that she knew she had to be involved with the project.
“My art has always had some hidden symbolism in it that sort of speaks to the same kind of themes, so when Kathy said she had this thing going I decided that I definitely wanted to be a part of that,” Fridy said.
Fridy is a fiber artist and has three pieces in the exhibit so far, one of which can be seen at the Welborn Gallery.
“’Through the Fire’ is my piece for this show, and it’s one of the new pieces that’s been brought in that it is ice-died fabric,” Fridy said. “I was starting to iron [this piece] and as I started ironing that one that face just jumped at me and it spoke to me right from the get go and I knew that was going to be part of this courage exhibit.”
Phyllis Sharpe, another artist featured in the Welborn Gallery, feels that this exhibit is emotional for both the viewer and the artist.
“You can see that these pieces brought out a lot of things within the artist; emotions that we had to deal with while doing the piece,” Sharpe said. “Especially when we knew they were moving through the cancer centers.”
Sharpe has two pieces featured in the Welborn Gallery.
“[Brusnighan] asked me to do saturated watercolor, which is a little bit different from traditional watercolor,” Sharpe said. “I started with the darks and graduated to the lights and let the materials create what it was and once it was finished that’s when I figured out the name.”
“The other piece is a heart, and it’s also an abstract,” Sharpe continued. “At the time I was doing that I wanted to do something that had the heart theme to it because that’s truly what the whole courage thing is — the heart and how it comes through.”
This project particularly touched Vicki Johnson, who has pieces on display in the Welborn Gallery. Johnson has two sisters who have battled breast cancer.
“When you have someone that’s going through that you feel like you can’t do anything; you feel helpless,” Johnson said tearfully. “This is just my way of contributing and trying to show the different things that I saw them going through. You don’t want to just paint a picture, you want to paint a feeling and that’s always emotional.”
Jean Smith, another artist featured in Welborn Gallery, was one of the only artists to paint an actual portrait of someone that she found courageous. Her painting titled “Cathy’s Story” illustrated a woman from South Africa who had beaten breast cancer multiple times.
“Kathy took a picture of a lady sitting in front of “Cathy’s Story” at the 5K, and she was just crying. Those are the types of things that I’m trying for; to make a change to encourage people to keep going,” Smith said.
The exhibit will have traveled to eight different galleries after its 15-month tour. Its final stop will be at the Center for Creative Leadership where it will have all 60 pieces of art.
The exhibit featured at the Welborn Gallery at the Yadkin Arts Council features 33 pieces.
“I have a good team, and they are all showing in this exhibit,” Brusnighan said. “The show wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for them.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.