VINTON–The “Book Ends” art show which opened at Market Gallery on March 30 gives a whole new meaning to “creative recycling.” Local artists Kim Sutliff and Barbara Norman-Lashley have combined literature and sculpture in their joint exhibit by making art from old books.
In fact, their efforts are more an example of the term “upcycling” than recycling. Upcycling is the process of converting discarded materials into new ones of better quality or for better environmental value. Sutliff and Norman-Lashley take old tomes and turn them into treasures.
Designing “altered books” may be as simple as adding a drawing or text to a page, or as complicated as creating an elaborate book sculpture. An altered book artist might cut, tear, fold, glue, stitch, add embellishments or niches, or create a collage. Sutliff and Norman-Lashley have included many of those variations in their exhibit.
Actually the altered book art is just the latest in a lifetime of art for both Sutliff and her mother, Norman-Lashley.
Sutliff is a Vinton resident although she grew up in Danville. Norman-Lashley and her husband of 53 years, Kirk Lashley, lived just up the street from Sutliff until they recently downsized and moved to Roanoke after 20 years in Vinton. Sutliff has two sons, one of whom is a student at William Byrd High School.
Norman-Lashley has always loved art and passed that passion on to her daughter. Both have art degrees from Averett University. Norman-Lashley has a Bachelor’s Degree in Art; Sutliff a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts, which is a more intensively art-focused major. Both have Master’s of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) degrees from Hollins University.
Both are members of the Market Gallery located on the corner of Wall Street and Salem Avenue in downtown Roanoke.
The Gallery is a cooperative made up of artists from the region who exhibit paintings, drawings, sculpture, collages, photography, pottery, and now recycled book art. They opened ten years ago and exhibit only original works. The artists take turns being the featured artist.
The Market Gallery is limited to 29 artists who must apply to become members. Currently there is a waiting list to join. Some of them are full-time artists, others part-time. Some are retired individuals who finally have the opportunity to focus on their forte.
“What distinguishes our gallery is the variety of art on display and the fact that we are continually rotating the art and spaces each month,” said Sutliff.
Artists pay a fee to rent a space and take turns manning the Gallery, so that there are no paid employees. When artwork is sold, the Gallery gets a commission.
Sutliff and Norman-Lashley, along with Ann Hale, are the featured artists during the month of April, with an opening reception held on Friday, April 5. Each provided a gallery talk that evening, speaking on what inspired their pieces and the techniques they employed in creating each piece.
Their opening exhibit was part of Art by Night, an event held on the first Friday night of each month when over fifteen galleries in or near downtown Roanoke stay open from 5 until 9 p.m. The featured exhibit at Market Gallery changes each month with the Art by Night event.
Hale has been primarily known in the Valley as an artist who draws and paints realistic art, but her current exhibit displays a new approach in a show titled, “Cycles in the Universe”.
Sutliff has just joined Market Gallery. She works full time from home as the regional service coordinator for Medtronic, a global company headquartered in Minneapolis which develops and manufactures innovative medical devices and technologies, such as pacemakers and defibrillators.
“I’m a weekend artist, especially now that my children are older,” said Sutliff.
The pair chose to create the “Book Ends” exhibit based on their love of books, their lifelong devotion to recycling, and their interest in sculpture and collage.
“I have always including lots of recycling in my artwork,” said Sutliff. “I have always been interested in finding new uses for old things.”
Although sculpture and collage are favorites, there is a scarcely a type of art that Sutliff, and Norman-Lashley aren’t interested in and haven’t created. They both love creating series of themed works. Sutliff’s Master’s thesis involved birds in every piece.
“I believe that everyone is capable of creating art,” said Norman-Lashley. “Often children are discouraged from being creative by too many rules. They are taught at an early age to color within the lines instead of creating freely. I tried not to squelch my children when they were little and to give them materials so they could experiment and create whatever they wanted.”
Each artist has about twelve pieces on display in the “Book Ends” exhibit.
Part of their inspiration for the project was attending “Artfully Marie”, a class at the Vinton Public Library, taught by Library Assistant Marni Smith. Smith introduced “altered art” classes for adults a couple of years ago.
Altered art involves taking an ordinary household object, sometimes an unwanted object, and decorating and embellishing it to create a work of art. “Artfully Marie” focused on the lavish lifestyle of Marie Antoinette. Smith’s most recent class is entitled “Artsy Antics: Bookish Things”.
“Roanoke has become a kind of mecca for art,” said Sutliff. “You would be surprised at the number of artists we have here in Roanoke. There is a lot of business from out-of-town visitors who come to Roanoke for conferences and stay at the Hotel Roanoke. They walk across the bridge and visit the downtown galleries.”
Visitors can view exhibits at the Market Gallery from 10:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Additional information is available by calling 540-342-1177 or online at www.marketgalleryroanoke.com. There is no charge for admission. Works of art from all members of the cooperative are on display at Market Gallery and are available for purchase.
“Book Ends” will be on display throughout the month of April.