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Four Friends: Abstract to Realism


One loves the sea; its quiet and naturally aesthetic quality. 

One loves the entire natural world; the beauty of ordinary things found there.

One loves light and color; the energy and fluid freedom found within both.

One loves the abstract world, yet draws inspiration from process and planning.

Their innate visual preferences are as diverse as their artistic origins. And yet, in a friendship that seems to amplify their personal styles and creative capacities, these four women go quietly about the process of nurturing the whims, techniques, and fertile imaginations of each other.

For Marilyn Vendemia, Sharon Ferguson, Marie Travisano, and Laurie Deleot, there’s no competition—only a world of boundless opportunity for expression. A place where brush, canvas, ink, paper, lens, paint, and press yield to a masterful mind’s eye view of artistic possibility.

On Thursday, September 1 at 6:00 pm, at an opening reception at Hastings Gallery—inside Boyd Library at Sandhills Community College—the inspired work of these four friends goes on display, upwards of 80 pieces in oil, watercolor, acrylic, and ink sure to satisfy the visual palate of any appreciative passerby. The display, aptly titled FOUR FRIENDS: ABSTRACT TO REALISM, runs through Friday, October 28.

The Hastings Gallery of Art is at 3395 Airport Road in Pinehurst. Gallery hours are: Monday through Thursday from 7:45 am until 9:00 pm; Friday from 7:45 am until 5:00 pm; and Saturday from 8:30 am until 2:00 pm.

Sharon Ferguson

Sharon Ferguson, is a classic still life and landscape artist whose work is found in many private collections. She’s a Pinehurst native who started young, drawing dinosaur murals on her parents’ walls at age four. She won her first art competition in the first grade. After college, she exhibited locally, winning awards and building a clientele. Later, she studied under classical realist Kamille Corry, then under Arthur Ross Award-winner Jeffrey Mims. 

Raised in the country, she grew up with a passionate interest in the outdoors. “Art, for me, has always been a way to express my love of the natural world,” she says. “There is great beauty in the ordinary, and I strive to reflect that beauty in my art.” 

Marilyn Vendemia

Marilyn Vendemia is a relatively new artist who works in oil and watercolor. She has shown at the Campbell House Gallery and the FOUR FRIENDS exhibit will be her first as a featured artist.

Her love for the sea, especially along the East Coast, has inspired her to use the ocean in all of its moods, both on canvas and on paper. “There’s a quality of light at the ocean that anyone who lives near the beach knows,” she says. “I’m not a realist; I’m more interested in the muted colors of the shore and the ocean. There’s also a quiet quality there you can’t find anywhere else. What I’m trying to show people is nature’s highest aesthetic. It shows us where we came from—who we are.”

Marie Travisano

Marie Travisano, an artist all her life, studied at Rutgers University, the Art Center of the Oranges, the Montclair Art Museum, the Newark Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Despite that formal training, her artistic career took a backseat to a successful business partnership with her late husband, himself an artist. She was, she says, an artist in the background.

After his death, though, friends and colleagues urged her to submit two watercolors to the Fine Arts Festival. Both pieces were singled out, leading to new inspiration and enough sales to sustain more creative efforts. Since then, she has shown in many successful solo and group shows. Her work is in local galleries and private collections throughout the U.S and Europe.

“It’s been a steady spiral upward,” says award-wining Travisano, whose free-flowing style and exciting sense of color create a bright, dynamic energy.

Her advice to students and others longing for a career in art? “Stay with it,” she says. “It’s about skill more than talent. Take your sketchpad everywhere you go. No matter where you are, take a moment to keep going forward. Don’t get discouraged, no matter what.”

For Travisano, who says she loves creating and is inspired by light and color, that advice goes both ways. “I’m always drawing, always painting. I get lost in what I’m doing.”

Laurie Deleot

Laurie Deleot says abstract printmaking has been her passion for seven years. But her success in the medium actually comes as the result of a dare. “I was threatening to go back to school and study printmaking,” she says. “A friend called my bluff and off I went.”

School, in Deleot’s case, turned out to be a summer curriculum class in the Sandhills Community College art department, studying under Denise Baker, Professor of Visual Arts and a printmaker herself. There, Deleot immersed herself in the challenge and craftsmanship of what she says is a tedious, but satisfying artistic process. “I really love the multilayered nature of printmaking,” she says. “I really have to break it down. It’s a process that builds on itself. It’s a process that requires diligence and commitment.”

Deleot, whose process is as much technical as it is artistic, must solve a number of challenges along the path to a successful print. “I’m always asking myself questions,” she says. “Is the pressure on the press adjusted correctly? Is the ink applied too thick or too thin? Is the viscosity (which refers to the flow capacity of oil content of the ink) too long or too short? Did I wipe too much ink off the plate or leave too much on? Was the plate left in the acid bath long enough?  Did I etch deep enough? Are my hands clean enough to handle the paper?  Do I have the paper too wet or too dry?”

Despite what sounds, at times, like something more akin to a mechanical analysis than an artistic endeavor, Deleot says she immerses herself deeply in the creative nature of her process. “What I love is the use of color in my prints,” she says. It’s radiant and abstract—highly stylized.”

At the end of the day, Deleot, 66, says she credits Sandhills Community College as her inspiration. “Sandhills’ art department is exceptional,” she says. “It isn’t just a college for post-highschoolers—there’s a place there for everyone, for people of every age on campus.”

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