A Collective Artistic Expression: The River Arts District / UNC Asheville Artist Alumni Show

February 8, 2024

On February 9, UNC Asheville will host the opening reception for “The River Arts District / UNC Asheville Artist Alumni Show” in Ramsey Library’s Blowers Gallery from 4-6 p.m.

As part of Homecoming Week events, this exhibition, curated by Karen Keil Brown ’81, showcases the artistic careers of 12 talented alumni and celebrates the exceptional education and training they received at UNC Asheville.

The participating alumni artists contribute to the thriving arts scene of Asheville’s River Arts District, with studios maintained in the same vibrant arts town of their alma mater. Each artist will present their own style and expression through various media, such as oil painting, pastels, sculpture, and pottery. Themes explored in the art displayed in this exhibition include nature, nostalgia, and reflections on the every day.

The exhibition will run until February 26. There will be a special alumni reception February 17 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. during UNC Asheville’s Homecoming celebration.

Karen Keil Brown ’81
Brown’s professional career spans two and half decades. Born in New Jersey and then raised in the mountains of Western North Carolina, Brown paints landscapes with a balance of realism and abstraction, skillfully encapsulating the serenity of nature. Brown is a member of the UNC Asheville Board of Trustees.

Tess Darling ’13
Darling pursues wild areas to capture wildlife and landscapes in her paintings. Her field work in photography and sketching enables her to create detailed work using acrylic and mixed media as her medium. Dramatic line work, structure, layering techniques, and a contemporary, pop-naturalist process captures the fleeting expression of wildlife.

Katie Elle ’12
Elle creates multi-disciplinary artworks inspired by the magic of the natural world. Her creative output includes crystal bracelets, bug paintings, collage pieces, terrariums, and more; Elle aims to bring out one’s inner child and refuel a sense of wonder for the world.
Elle.kate.art on Instagram

Sahar Fakhoury ’05
Fakhoury works with oil paint, watercolor, mixed media, and clay. Her recent work in contemporary realism is inspired by people she encounters on the street. Attracted to body movements and expressions, she creates her own impressions in her compositions. The human figure — in motion, standing still, or doing their daily chores — draws her attention.

Meredith Gottschalk ’97
A ceramic artist, but with a background in printmaking as well, Gottschalk especially enjoys the convergence of these mediums in her work. She finds joy in creating objects of both beauty and functionality to be used in simple daily rituals.

Mary LaBianca ’04
After attending UNC Asheville, LaBianca earned her MFA in Dance and Choreography at Mills College and has been teaching dance for over 15 years. She believes everyone has a right to dance and should learn from a variety of perspectives. For LaBianca, inspiration comes from social interactions, science, visual art, and literature. In solo studies, the camera has allowed her to explore through a similar process with film.

Fleta Monaghan ’94
Monaghan is the founder and director of 310 ART Gallery in Asheville. She has exhibited extensively and her work is in public and private collections worldwide. Monagan works in encaustic and abstract art, experimenting with oil, wax, oil pastels, and heated beeswax as mediums, seeking to imbue her art with an essence of thought and feeling.

Brit J Oie ’99
Oie creates images on the border of abstraction and figuration, of what is felt and what is seen, using collages of embossed paper and layering of acrylic paint. Oie’s latest series of work investigates the theme of winter, not only in nature but also “the winter of the soul.” With her beginnings as a weaver, Oie’s interest in texture and patterns is evident in her paintings, where she juxtaposes geometric and organic shapes.

Jeremy Phillips ’98
Phillips’s paintings respond to the digital world, seeking to produce images that linger long beyond the transience of modern media. The physical qualities of his work are central to his practice – the surface texture, the way the light plays off the paint, the accidents of application, the revelations of underlayers, the juxtaposition of thickness, and color. The varied content of his paintings includes the interiors of rooms or apartment blocks, optical illusions and impossible shapes, binary code, and stacks.

Susan Sinyai ’94
Sinyai is continually exploring the enchanting, transient effects of light, the way it can evoke mood and memories, attempting to capture the fleeting moment of perfect light in the medium of oil or pastel. She finds landscape to be the richest of tapestries for her paintings, and in the beautiful intricacies of flowers she discovers endless material to explore. Notably, Sinyai was one of the primary collaborators in a life-sized reproduction of Raphael’s “School of Athens,” which hangs in Highsmith Student Union at UNC Asheville.

Cindy Walton ’05
Walton has developed highly personalized abstract techniques in her paintings that translate and transform nature and iconography. Through writings and bold marks traveling in and out of the layers of oil and cold wax, Walton captures action, energy, and quiet musings of nature. As layers are built, Walton incises the surface with sharp-edged tools and large sticks of oil paint. In her recent work, she began to explore using paper, glue, and thread to create whimsical, bold paintings and the deconstruction of painted paper into woven, sewn, distressed, torn, and repaired constructions.