The Blank Canvas
Three local artists share their radiant visions of hope for the New Year
By Ashley Wahl • Photographs by Bert VanderVeen
Our thoughts create our reality.
Mystics and writers have long explored this simple yet radical notion, borrowing wisdom from nearly every ancient culture.
I’d like to think there’s some truth to it.
From the late 1930s until his death in 1972, New Thought philosopher Neville Goddard taught that imagination and faith are the secrets of creation. “Be careful of your moods and feelings,” he wrote, “for there is an unbroken connection between your feelings and your visible world.”
In the late ’70s, New Age author Shakti Gawain said as much in her bestselling book Creative Visualization, defining imagination as “the creative energy of the universe.”
Oprah brought this metaphysical concept to the masses in 2006 when she plugged The Secret on her show, praising Rhonda Byrne’s “life-changing” book and documentary film for bringing to light the Law of Attraction, aka the spiritual principle that like attracts like.
“Quantum physicists tell us that the entire Universe emerged from thought,” writes Byrne.
Although critics have rejected this claim, arguing that “the secret” has no scientific foundation, it certainly has a following.
Perhaps it’s difficult to certify that our thoughts hold the power to change our world, but consider the studies conducted by Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto, who claimed that our consciousness could alter the molecular structure of water and had the photos to prove it.
Human beings are largely made of water.
Ditto Planet Earth.
And so, if only for the sake of our own pleasure, let us imagine that this maxim holds true — that our thoughts and intentions can change us and therefore our reality.
In this spirit of optimism and imagination, O.Henry’s editors began looking at 2021 as a literal blank canvas, asking ourselves how we might wish to see it — what colors and textures we might add, and what space we might leave for positive changes.
Then, just for fun, we reached out to three wildly talented local artists — Krystal Hart, Jessica Yelverton and Beka Butts — to see if they might play along, sharing with us their very real, deeply heartfelt “visions of hope” for the new year.
You might treat this as a dream board kind of rendering, we suggested. A vision you might create in a spacious morning.
The artists floored us with three refreshing and exclusive visual responses, which they graciously agreed to share in the pages of O.Henry.
We hope that their art might inspire you, dear reader. And if this new year looks or feels anything like their visions — soft, dreamy and full of hope — then things are looking up.
Krystal Hart is a North Carolina native whose work bridges cultures and communities by exploring our shared human condition. Her mission is to shift perspectives toward restoration and regeneration. Through abstraction, Hart navigates boundaries and space within the human experience. She communicates through painting, collage, audio and moving image. Inspired by Nihonga, an early 20th century style of traditional Japanese painting, Hart uses precious natural and synthetic materials that are subjected to trauma. These works of art express emotive color fields that balance tumult with delicacy.
Artist’s Statement: The green and blue hues in my vision invoke feelings of new life and fresh perspectives. The dark shapes represent the recent past: systems and situations that we are still trying to make sense of. And the bright pops of color and geometric shapes remind me of a child’s building blocks — symbols of hope for a bold and playful reality that we are all invited to co-create. Imagine in 2021 not taking ourselves — or even our recent past — too seriously. Imagine assuming a jovial attitude, regardless of circumstances. Imagine our wonder for goodness and beauty restored. I see thoughtful, honest and careful steps forward. May our reflections looking back at 2020 lead us to surprising innovation and new ways of seeing and being. May we be more careful with ourselves and others — more kind. May we seek and discover the loveliness within each moment. And may we be confident, sober and courageous in our thoughts and actions.
Media: Natural minerals, pigments, white charcoal, graphite powder, sumi and walnut ink, silver leaf, tulle, cheese cloth, colored pencil, twine fibers and mitsumata paper on kumohadamashi paper mounted on wood panel, 30 x 40 inches
Read more about Krystal Hart in the Winter 2020 issue of Seasons Style + Design and at her website, www.krystalhart.com.
Jessica Yelverton, aka HighBrow Hippie, is a Greensboro artist who draws inspiration straight from nature and translates it into landscapes, seascapes and botanically-themed paintings, primarily in watercolor. Endlessly fascinated by the juxtaposition of control and chaos that watercolor allows, Yelverton describes the creative process of setting pigment free as one of her favorite phenomena on the planet. Watercolor, the artist says, demonstrates thoughtfulness, grace, graciousness and trust — all the traits she hopes to reflect through her life and artwork.
Artist’s statement: Several months ago, I learned somewhere — probably on a podcast — that plants communicate with one another. They do this through intricate root systems underground; partially their own, partially with help from the threadlike roots of fungi. This seemed almost unbelievable to me — plants and mushrooms as conscious entities! But they do indeed talk, and not only to their own kind, but across species. Plants communicate about everything from nutrients to water levels, from sunlight to pest protection. They also share resources with one another. If a tree in the forest is attacked by a predator, for example, information spreads beneath the forest floor. Defenses are put into place, and nutrients from surrounding trees flow to aid the one in need. What if we take our cue from plants as we enter 2021? What if we recognize that we don’t have to be homogenous in our thinking to successfully communicate and support one another? We are varied, yes, but what if we saw our differences as our collective strength? No one wants a forest or a garden with only one species. Variety is what makes life together beautiful. Communication is what makes it work.
Media: Pencil and watercolor on paper, 12 x 12 inches
Read more about Jessica Yelverton in the Winter 2020 issue of Seasons Style + Design and at her website, www.highbrowhippiestudio.com.
Varied, Rooted & Whole, 2021
Beka Butts is a Greensboro illustrator, artist and maker dedicated to contributing to the growth and vibrancy of the Triad’s art scene. Born on the Border in El Paso, Texas, Butts explores social issues through a lens of Hispanic folk art and defines her work as a mix of Chicano and Southern influences. Drawing inspiration from nature, the artist employs intricate patterns and detail while creating everything from large-scale murals to tiny works of wood-burned jewelry.
Artist’s Statement: What do I see — and hope for — in 2021? People taking care of each other. To me, this means supporting local restaurants, artists and makers who are struggling, tipping generously, buying handmade, wearing masks, being kind to others and ourselves, being as safe as possible, and being conscious of every healthcare worker who keeps showing up, day after day, throughout this pandemic. I want to see us taking care of our teachers and the parents who have become teachers, too. Let us take care of our community, especially those who are most vulnerable. Keep checking on our family and friends. Send the text message, the video, the letter, the gift — let’s remind each other that we’re not alone.
Find Beka Butts’ handmade jewelry at the locally curated Hudson’s Hill in Greensboro and explore more of her artwork on social media @Bbutts_illustration or facebook.com/BekaButtsIllustrator.
We Take Care of Each Other, 2021