New discoveries abound as 15 artists from across the south coast return to the Merkle and Price Galleries of the South Arkansas Arts Center for a new exhibition entitled “Tides and Currents: Contemporary Art Along the Gulf Coast.”  The collection will be on display through June 28. An artist reception will be hosted by the visual arts committee on Saturday, June 28 from 6-8pm. The exhibition is sponsored by Southern Bancorp and Teague Auto Group.

The exhibition marks the return of many of the artists to SAAC’s galleries with new creations that explore various mediums and the versatility of art.  The exhibition includes works in acrylics, assemblages, encaustics, graphite and ink on wood, handmade papers, pottery, sculpture, textiles, and watercolor.

The award winning artists included in the exhibition are Annette Blocker, Susan Carranza, Kat Fitzpatrick, Kerr Grabowski, Mary Hardy, Carol Hutcherson, Adele Lawton, Ellen Ellis Lee, Trailer McQuilkin, Bill Myers, Vicki Niolet, Mary Pickard, Joey Rice, Peggy Tilley, and Jessie Florence Zenor.

Mary Anderson Pickard – Mary Pickard has found success in writing, painting, and theater direction. Mary often paints in her kayak while enjoying the beauty of the local bayous and marshes and on birding trips to nearby islands.

Annette Blocker – She began her artistic journey as a child sitting on the floor watching her mother paint, when she was only 4 years old, while living in the Philippine Islands. She sat in amazement as her mother laid beautiful colors onto canvas depicting some of the exotic birds, fruit and plants that where indigenous to that place. As an adult, her interest in the cellular structure has expanded to patterns of shapes as they are placed next to each other, pods of reoccurring shapes and repetition of shapes or cells or pods in general. She said, “Utilizing encaustics and other mediums and materials, I am continuing to explore nature at its smallest and simplest form, and although at its simplest form it is not without its complexities, leading one to think that perhaps we have not broken down completely the makeup of matter as we know it.”

Susan Carranza – Her personal art reflects numerous phases of both subject and media. Among her early work were a series of sketches and etchings undertaken while living in Washington D.C. and New Orleans. In the following years she explored the arts of papermaking and bookmaking, with a strong use of collage. These current works reflect a return to sketching and painting.

Kat Fitzpatrick – “Could it be the fragrance of beeswax that haunts my dreams? It certainly has the feel of it…from rough, textured ridges to a satin-y, almost skin like smoothness. Touch the inside of your wrist to get an idea…or touch my painting, I don’t mind. Go ahead, touch it.” For Kat, working with encaustic is the perfect balance of will and surrender. While she does start with ideas of what to paint and how, there is a collaboration with the wax, almost a dance. Sometimes a new direction will present itself, born of the moment, unexpected. After ten years of working with the medium she has an intuitive knowing of when to follow, and when to lead. Time confirms her choices or allows her to make changes or additions.

Kerr Grabowski – Kerr Grabowski is a fiber/mixed media artist known for her elegantly whimsical fabrics and art wear. “My personal world is unconscious, non-verbal. Through process, I make concrete what has meaning to me.  Sticks, seeds, tiny objects, plant, human and animal patterns and interactions, the list of life patterns is endless and inspiring. I respond to and am inspired by cultures where art is an integral part of daily life, where mark making is a natural activity, a part of the celebration of being,” she stated.

Mary Hardy – Mary Hardy is a mixed media artist living and working in Ocean Springs, MS.  Her work addresses issues of dualities of perception.  Her imagery originates from memories of her own and others; those once thought lost or buried that re-emerge, transform and initiate new revelations.  Mary said, “Art has never been what I do it is what I am.  From as far back as I can remember I always wanted to ‘make stuff’. Mark making has always excited me (philosophically as well as literally).  I love to scribble!  The movement and energy in that act makes me feel alive and THAT is what I strive for in my work.  No matter what materials I use, my application process is rooted in the graphic, expressive mark and no matter what imagery I use; the mark is actually my subject matter.”

“My work is a search for what is not immediately evident rather than an imitation of what is there.  I do not start with a ‘finished’ image in mind.  I start with a notion, question, experience or vague memory.   I am a visceral painter and have learned to trust that.  My manipulation of collage elements and layering them with paint and drawing elements lets me react in an immediate way that allows a dialog to begin on the canvas.   The exciting thing for me in working this way is that the work takes on a life of its own; it reveals so much more than I could have ever pre-conceived and it allows me to ‘see’ much deeper,” she added.

 Carol Hutcherson – Artist, Carol Hutcherson, currently resides and works in Gautier, Ms. and has been a Gulf Coast resident for 39 years. Her life’s journey is a collage of experiences that have always involved art in one form or another. Some of these experiences include owning & operating a small gallery, teaching public school and private art classes, attending & teaching workshops and producing commissioned pieces.

“The tides they are a-changin’ and for the better!  My current work is being shown for the first time outside my native state. . .a new piece for my life’s journey collage! The time is drawing nigh and the excitement escalates……..I am so humbly grateful to be showing with my contemporary artist friends whose work I have admired for years.

“(Get it? Contemporary drawings & collages at the Tides & Currents show? ) Hope you enjoy the pieces as much as I did while creating them.”

 Adele Lawton – Adele runs the design studio at Shearwater Pottery in Ocean Springs.  She does this work to honor her parents. She works at Shearwater Pottery five days a week, six hours a day. The decorating that she does happens on her own time, at home, generally on the weekend. She likes to portray the flora and fauna of the Mississippi Coast, generally the things she sees around her at the Pottery or on the barrier islands.

Adele said, “So many years later, when I was 24, after college, I went back to work there to make molds. My Daddy taught me in the Annex to do things the same way he did when he worked there. When I started painting the pottery, I used the same paints that he and Walter did when they were decorating the pottery that Peter threw.

“Now, I still use the same type paints that they used, only on pottery thrown by Peter’s son, Jim, and his son, Peter Wade. Generally, I paint white slip onto the pot, draw a design in pencil, and paint the underglaze paint over that. I use an inciser to go around the paint and refine the lines, usually leaving any paint on either side of the incising because I like the look of it. It reminds me of a block print and the small amount of inking that is left when you haven’t carved the design quite deep enough,” she said.

Ellen Ellis Lee – Ellen Ellis Lee creates mixed media one of a kind figurative sculptures and wall art, and says that the marriage of juxtaposed entities is very appealing to her.  She works with ceramic clay, textiles, paint, paper, wood, nature’s gifts, and recycled or re-purposed items, striving to display the beauty of combined textures, colors and finishes.  She says, “On my wall is a quote from Booker T. Washington – ‘Do common things in an uncommon way.’”

Trailer McQuilkin – Trailer McQuilkin uses sheets of copper, copper wire, oil paints and natural materials and the techniques of cutting, soldering, incising and painting to re-create plants. He performs each operation with uncompromising attention to accurate detail; a careful examination of his work reveals the tiniest fibers, the slightest color variations and even an occasional insect. His work is completely original yet is a faithful documentation of natural, l’oeil art at its best.

Bill Myers – His singular artistry, coupled with his virtuostic technique, bring viewers and collectors into a unique vision of his often scathing wit, whimsy and great humor, while often challenging our popular beliefs and values. His current work is drawings on board with graphite and ink, and sculptures with wire, wood, and bone and elements of drawing. His work has been shown in New York, New Orleans, Chicago in both galleries and museum shows. In Pennsylvania, he and a friend started an organization which works with kids in shelters, drug rehab, and incarcerated youth. Bill said, “Through these travels, jobs, and programs and through my work, I have made many valued friends. And though fortune certainly seems to elude me, the joy of friends and some good laughs are the riches I have in abundance.”

 Vicki Niolet – Vicki Niolet is a compulsive hoarder who has found a creative outlet for her collecting obsession. She has been working since 1982, combining found objects with her many different skills. Progressing from pottery, photography, and papermaking into sculpture, she combines media and materials into satirical shrines and music boxes.  “My ‘habitats for insanity’ fall somewhere between the two extremes of Cornell’s exquisite box constructions and Wall-E’s emotional foraging.  In my mixed media assemblages and music boxes I use found and fabricated objects to create sentimental shrines and offbeat altars,” she said.

Joey Rice – “I first encountered the Japanese raku tea bowls at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington during the autumn of 1999. Their forms and their range of expression attracted me. Some were subtle and dignified, while others exuded a cheerful sense of playfulness. As I studied the bowls, my appreciation deepened. I decided to begin a series of drawings based upon the eight raku tea bowls. This exhibit was developed over the course of three years from the drawings made during subsequent trips,” said Joey.

The makers of the tea bowls included both amateur and professional potters. They made the tea bowls to foster their understanding of Chanoyu, the tea ceremony. The potters sought to make objects that combined beauty with the intimacy of use. She added, “Seeing those raku tea bowls has given me cause to reflect on the mystery of why we create.”

 Peggy Tilley – Peggy grew up in rural Mississippi and moved to England as a young RN. After studying printmaking at the Kent Institute of Art and Design, she married a Brit, had one child, and returned to the Deep South. “My conceptual work tends to be theatrical.  Typically I work with glass/acrylic, metal, leather/fabric–and I usually construct all or most of the components of each artpiece.  I am interested in how we perceive ourselves and how we come to believe what we believe,” she explained.

 Jessie Florence Zenor – Jessie Zenor is a maker.  She spends her time making art, posters, brunch, tshirts and a variety of other design projects ranging from websites to back yards to houses and beyond. Jessie said, “While I was designing houses on stilts for families rebuilding their homes after Katrina, my sketches became more and more exaggerated.  They began to take on a new life of their own, a new spirit, and began to form a community, one braced for weather that comes from living on a coast still embraces a celebration of life. From the most extreme conditions, come the most colorful, rich and interesting cultures.”

The exhibition is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9am until 5pm. For more information about “Tides and Currents: Contemporary Art Along the Gulf Coast,” contact the SAAC office at 862-5474 or visit