By Monica Orosz
Charleston Daily Mail
A testament to the popularity of the Clay Center’s annual holiday tree and art exhibit comes from the artists themselves.
Bob Henry Baber, fresh off a Mountain Party campaign for Senate, made time to contribute “Christmas is for the Birds,” featuring stacks of whimsical birdhouses and modern lighting.
Penny Fioravante, who moved earlier this year to Lewisburg, hauled supplies to Charleston for her annual exhibit, which is a family affair with her three artistic children, Gianna, Angelo and Marcus. Their contribution? “Christmas Eve at the Monsters.”
Dan connery, who has been signing his name in lower case letters for about as long as he’s volunteered his creativity for the exhibit, taught himself origami for his lovely paper tree, called “cavea,” also in lower case letters.
Cindy and Butch Walton survived a mild disaster when their tree, a series of green ornaments suspended from gold plywood pieces all hung from the ceiling, tumbled to the ground earlier this week shortly after it had been installed. Undaunted, they untangled and re-hung it — more securely the second time.
Rob Cleland, best known for his large-scale murals including one in Fayetteville, turned to cast-off electronics — among them phone cords, a burner from an electric stove and a series of mother boards — to create an assemblage he has entitled “Circuit Tree.”
Recently, their work and that of a dozen or more other area artists opened at the Clay Center, where it will remain on exhibit until Dec. 30.
Friday’s opening coincided with Holly Day, a family friendly event that includes games, art activities for the children and a visit from Santa.
Although the theme of this year’s art exhibit is “Traditions: A Celebration of Heritage,” don’t expect to see standard fare. Artists had a lot of fun interpreting the theme.
Fioravante took inspiration from a series of paintings she bought from a family friend and artist, Derek Hagler. She loved his monster family series so much that she bought four paintings that now hang in her Lewisburg apartment.
When she mulled over the idea of “tradition,” she turned to her monster family.
“They’ve become a part of the family,” Fioravante said.
The portraits became part of the exhibit, each hung above a bright pink “mantle” on which a specially created stocking hangs. The stockings were custom fit to the monster’s physical characteristics, be it technically footless or even a foot with an extra toe.
A large fallen branch became the framework for a tree that Fioravante’s son Marcus crafted. In keeping with the monster theme, it features eyeballs peeking out in several spots.
A chair, a plate of fossilized cookies for Santa and a custom book complete the exhibit.
“It’s such a good family thing,” Fioravante said of the project with her now-grown children.
Connery said inspiration for his tree came from a winter scene last year — a bright red cardinal poised on a tree in a snowstorm.
He turned to origami, the paper folding art, to carry out the idea and said he was amazed at just how elaborate the art form is. He selected a relatively simple snowflake pattern, creating the snowflakes in white tracing paper, white copy paper, newspaper and foil.
“Numbers 2 to 56 weren’t hard,” he said. The first one was another story. As for the bright red cardinal, he admits to a few cuss words and thrown paper in that process.
The base of a tree is a wooden electrical spool that is lit from the center to show off the snowflakes, suspended from twine and anchored to the ceiling.
Joshua Jones, who works as a graphic designer and photographer for the Clay Center, tried his hand for the first time with a Trufula Tree, inspired by the classic Dr. Seuss story, “The Lorax.”
Don’t be fooled by the seeming simplicity of the fluff-topped tree. Jones started with a piece of PVC pipe that he heated and bent to sway like the real Lorax tree. Then he covered the PVC with a series of rings cut from industrial Styrofoam insulation. The trunk was anchored to a wooden base, painted and topped with a large Styrofoam ball covered in feather boas.