Portfolio | Art in the Southeast

Meet 5 artists who hail from Florida, Georgia & North Carolina

This story was featured in the November 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  November 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Lyn Asselta

Lyn Asselta, Afternoon on the Hill, pastel, 14 x 18.

Lyn Asselta, Afternoon on the Hill, pastel, 14 x 18.

Before Lyn Asselta started painting landscapes, she was a calligrapher and creator of award-winning fine-art gourds. “I was used to using fine-nib pens for everything,” says Asselta about the detail-intensive work. When the artist stumbled upon an old box of Grumbacher pastels from college, she was instantly smitten with the large, chunky sticks of bright colors and happily plunged into the expressive, tactile medium.

Landscapes were a natural fit from the start, says Asselta, a Maine native who has always loved the outdoors. Today, the artist lives in historic St. Augustine, FL, surrounded by salt marshes and waterways. Frequently inspired by the quiet, everyday scenes around her home, she portrays places others might pass by day after day without a second glance. “I think the more interesting paintings sometimes come from very ordinary things, and you have to put your own hand into it,” says Asselta. It’s a lesson she likes to impart to students in her studio and plein-air pastel workshops. “You don’t always have to look for a sunrise or sunset in front of you to find something amazing,” she says.

See Asselta’s work at the Amiro Art & Design Gallery, St. Augustine, FL; First Street Gallery, Neptune Beach, FL; and www.lynasselta.com. —Kim Agricola

Meredith Cope

Meredith Cope, Emerald Sea, oil, 36 x 36.

Meredith Cope, Emerald Sea, oil, 36 x 36.

Meredith Cope’s fascination with koi began when she arrived at a resort in Hawaii. She says she stepped out of the car and found giant ponds filled with koi. From then on, she says, she began to paint the fish intensively.

“I find it irresistible to stand around and watch the fish because [their life] is so effortless and beautiful,” Cope says. “I feel like we struggle so much in our lives, and here are these fish that are just flowing along. There’s this feeling of oneness with our environment.” This epiphany also led Cope to publish The Gift of Koi, a book in which the artist reflects on her work and the philosophy of life she found in painting serene images of aquatic life.

Cope feels her work is a blend of many styles, but her main influence is her gut rather than what she learned in art school. “You want to be honest, that’s the main driving force. The struggle of the artist is to get beyond imitation and say, ‘I’m not listening to any other voice than my own,’” Cope says. Most of the artist’s work is focused on minute details. She paints close-ups of water with such finesse that the flow and energy move the viewer. However, she has also started to paint landscapes that are just the opposite: large and grand. “Now I’m switching from micro to macro, from water to land,” she says. “I guess I’m not happy unless I’m working in extremes.”

Cope’s work can be found at Magnolia Art Gallery, Greensboro, GA; Third Dimension Gallery, Kamuela, HI; and at www.meredithcope.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

Peter Hansen

Peter Hansen, Across the Bay, oil, 16 x 20.

Peter Hansen, Across the Bay, oil, 16 x 20.

“Tell me something that has a greater display of light, shadow, and color than clouds,” says oil painter Peter Hansen. “It’s a constant kaleidoscope.” Hansen grew up in one of nature’s most glorious backyards, Yosemite National Park, where his father worked as a park ranger. The artist describes it as “a canyon filled with light and shadow,” facets he loves to capture today in his landscapes and seascapes, where sunlit thunderheads often mushroom over low-slung horizons.

“Is it in the DNA? Yeah, I think so,” says the artist. Hansen’s aunt was an art director for Reader’s Digest, and his grandmother, an art instructor, gave him art lessons as a boy. Hansen himself started painting seriously 23 years ago while managing a busy career in computer sales, and after retiring, he turned to his creative vocation full time.

“It’s been an evolution and revolution,” laughs Hansen, who recently moved with his wife to Palm Beach County, FL, from their mountain home in Colorado. Where mesas, piñon trees, and sagebrush once starred in his work, he has learned to portray coastal light, palm trees, piers, and the sea. “It’s new, it’s refreshing, and it’s totally different,” says Hansen. “I think the ocean is the most difficult thing to paint on the planet, bar none—but boy, is it inspiring.”

See Hansen’s work at Signature Art Gallery, Tallahassee, FL; Sunset Art Gallery, Amarillo, TX; Lagerquist Gallery, Atlanta, GA; Wilder Nightingale Fine Art, Taos, NM; Native American Trading Co., Denver, CO; Stellers Gallery, Jacksonville, FL; Stewart Gallery, Gloucester, VA; and Vision Gallery, Morehead City, NC. —Kim Agricola

Priscilla Coote

Priscilla Coote, William Street, oil, 12 x 16.

Priscilla Coote, William Street, oil, 12 x 16.

When self-taught artist Priscilla Coote moved to the Florida Keys, she decided she had better learn how to paint water. Over a whole summer, Coote studied the water from every angle to hone her brushwork and technique in portraying the element that draws visitors to the state. Coote says she paints both in the studio and en plein air, and her style of painting is often dictated by her location.

“My studio paintings can get quite tight, but out in the field my work is looser and more impressionistic. But each one informs the other,” Coote says. “When you study from nature, you learn the true effects of light. And when you are in the studio, you learn how to best render what you’ve learned using your time and your tools.” Coote has traveled all over the world and painted the scenery en plein air in each place, from the top of Machu Picchu to the Austrailian outback and remote Caribbean islands. “Anywhere I go, it’s the immediacy of the moment—I have to paint what I see,” Coote says. Her work can be seen at Gallery on Greene, Key West, FL; The Gallery at Four India, Nantucket, MA; and at www.pcoote.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

Ora Sorensen

Ora Sorensen, Lotus y Dragonfly, oil, 50 x 50.

Ora Sorensen, Lotus y Dragonfly, oil, 50 x 50.

Ora Sorensen describes her painting as “exaggerated realism.” Her colorful images of flowers and fruit use scale and bright lighting that evoke the tropical prints of the 1980s.

Sorensen was born in New York but grew up traveling overseas, where she took several workshops and art classes to help hone her skills. She later returned to the United States where she opened a gallery in Delray Beach, FL. However, she sold the building two years ago and moved to North Carolina, where she now lives and paints.

“It was a big change because I went from painting every day to have something to put in the gallery, to now when I’m slowing down and really painting what I want,” Sorensen says. The artist says the move will definitely impact her work due to the change in culture. She says she is slowly moving away from large pieces featuring tropical colors to smaller pieces that reflect the natural environment of North Carolina.

Sorensen enjoys learning new mediums but always returns to oil painting. “It’s very relaxing because you have complete control,” she says. “It’s almost like my mind disappears, and the idea goes from hand to canvas with nothing in between.” Sorensen’s work can be seen at Rosenbaum Contemporary, Boca Raton, FL, and at www.orasorensenart.com. —Mackenzie McCreary

This story was featured in the November 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art  November 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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