Thursday, August 08, 2013 8:28 AM
Husband, wife artists share gallery space
By Lisa Boykin Batts | Times Life Editor
Artists Gerard and Amanda Lange share a home, three children and more than an occasional raspberry soy mocha and coffee with whipped cream at Starbucks. So it’s no real surprise that the couple would not only inspire each other and bounce ideas off of each other but would also make art together.
The Langes, who have been married for five years, both teach art. He’s an associate professor of art and design at Barton College and coordinator of photography programs. She teaches art at Hunt High School. They both create art as well, and this evening, a joint exhibit of around 50 pieces of their work will open at the Wilson Arts Center.
The show includes Gerard’s photographs and Amanda’s color pencil drawings as well as collaborative mixed media pieces the two have worked on together this summer.
Take one step inside the Lange home, and it’s obvious that art lovers live there. The walls are lined with artwork. Some by the couple, some by former students or professors. Amanda said one of her favorite pieces is a large abstract by her children, Emily, 15, and Alex, 10.
The Langes live with their art. Sculptures sit on tables; photographs line a wall in the dining room.
It’s not unusual to see an easel set up in the foyer where sunlight streams through the front door and gives perfect light for Amanda’s color pencil drawings. But it’s also common, they say, to find either one of them sitting on the floor in the family room working on an art project.
The two teach art all day and return home to work on their individual art projects.
This summer it’s been especially busy with the Langes finishing projects for this show, titled "Betrothed.”
Amanda has concentrated on a series of exotic and colorful bird drawings. Last winter, she started feeding backyard birds and has found herself drawn to them.
"I love them; they are interesting, beautiful,” she said.
Most pieces in the show have an underlying naturalist theme. Amanda said she likes to focus on small things in nature, such as seed pods and leaves.
One of the collaborations with the show started with Amanda’s nuthatch drawing and paper cutting. Gerard did the collage work on that.
They also collaborated on mixed media pieces that incorporated both of their strengths as well as well as the nature topic.
Gerard bought a variety of succulents that were sold at the Barton greenhouse. He photographed them, and Amanda did color pencil drawings of the photos. Gerard then used her artwork to create collages that resemble one of his elaborate art journal entries.
Amanda said a lot of trust goes into collaborative projects such as this, when she turns over one of her drawings for him to embellish.
"But I’m such a fan of his journal and mixed media work,” she said. "I can’t anticipate what he will do, but I can trust. I know it’s going to turn out, so I just shut up.”
Another collaboration started with volumes of The Book of Knowledge they inherited when good friend Claude Starling died last year.
Gerard painstaking hollowed out the books with an X-acto blade, and the two filled the book boxes with natural specimens such as twigs and broken eggs as well as images of birds before covering the front with a piece of glass.
They also worked together on a sculptural seedpod made of papier mache. Coffee filters toned with tea were sewn together like pages.
DAILY LOVE LETTERS
One of the more personal items in the show is a print of some of the small cards Gerard has made for his wife.
At the couple’s first unofficial date, Amanda told Gerard about artist trading cards — small pieces of art that are given away.
Gerard apparently loved the idea and made one for Amanda every time they went out on a date after that.
"But that became every day,” he said, so the collection grew.
The cards are similar to his art journal and record what happened that day in their life in the form of illustrations, collage and the written word.
As time when on, the cards started to add up, so Gerard made her a box and covered it with handmade paper to store the first group in. This has continued for the seven years they’ve known each other, and there’s quite a collection of pretty little boxes now in their bedroom.
At some point, Amanda suggested he make just one card a week, but instead of a single card, Gerard made a small, art journal style book that he gives her every week. The numbered collection of these personal notes hits 700 this week.
"I’m a spoiled, spoiled woman,” Amanda said. "And I am keeping him.”
SETTING AN EXAMPLE
Both Amanda and Gerard set an example for their students by creating art as well as teaching. Gerard often shows his photographs and mixed media work in galleries, including a show that is hanging at Emerge in Greenville through this month. Gerard, who works part time as a graphic designer in the advertising department at The Wilson Times, said making art and exploring visually is his research as a professor.
Amanda said her students get excited when they see her work.
"Oh my God,” they say. "You really can draw!”
Her degrees are in painting and drawing as well as literature, not teaching.
"What I take to the classroom is a lot of hands-on experience making art,” she said.
She is excited that artwork by her students will be shown in the upstairs gallery at the Wilson Arts Center at the same time as her show is downstairs.
The Langes’ creativity has rubbed off on their children. Gerard’s son, Felix, enjoys stop-motion video. Emily and Alex, who are homeschooled, have found their own niches whether it’s in needlework or the piano. Between the five of them, there are many art-related projects brewing at any time. And they love it that way.
"It’s an incredible life, and I feel very blessed,” Amanda said. "If I could have picked how to live, it would be this.”
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