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Art students use life experiences to form abstract creations

May 20, 2018

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — Devin R. Mitchell offers a world of whimsy in his art.

Liam Besneatte-Cullinane, meanwhile, takes a wild walk on the dark side.

Chalk it all up to college experimentation.

And for the viewer?

Well, that’s all part of the fun — and fascination — of interpreting the work of these two artists, both products of rural communities near Emory & Henry College, where they both study studio art.

This month, both budding artists are featured on the walls of the Wolf Hills Brewing Company in Abingdon, Virginia.

And though their art is dramatically different, the brewery’s trivia master, Eric Drummond Smith, said, “You can tell that they’re playing with some of the same visual-language cues in a weird way ... They’re abstracting. They’re going for really stark contrasts.”

Both artists, as well, said Smith, 42, “are trying to go for really emotive responses.”

Growing up near Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee, Besneatte-Cullinane has learned to experiment with ink. He also makes collages that “deal with identity” — including masculinity.

What the artist offers in his art appears like ink-blot designs.

Are these viruses?

Or are these a strawberry that has leaked?

“I wanted to engage the viewer and create these mental sensations beyond just the physical form of the piece,” the artist said with a smile. “It’s intentionally abstract to create your own interpretations.”

Yet the material, he says, has a dark tone.

“These canvases are all very intentionally dark,” Besneatte-Cullinane said. “I think that’s sort of the direction that my work on canvas is going: definitely dark and sort of foreboding.”

Why’s that?

“I really don’t know,” Besneatte-Cullinane said. “There’s something in my subconscious that just made me want to create these.”

Still, even the artist’s black-and-white photographs suggest something stark.

One photo on display shows two lonely silos off State Route 91 near Glade Spring. Another portrays an abandoned school bus once used by a home in the remote mountains of Johnson County, Tennessee.

“With my photography, I like to photograph very regional images,” said Besneatte-Cullinane, who shoots exclusively on black-and-white film.

“I develop it and scan it myself and print it,” he said. “It creates a much more meaningful relationship with my images.”

Much of what Devin Mitchell offers in his 17 pieces of art has a playful, cartoonish flair.

And, if you see anything familiar, well, that may not be a coincidence.

“I look at people from my hometown and draw inspiration from them,” said Mitchell, who grew up in Sugar Grove, Virginia, and went to high school in Marion.

“With all my work, I want to have a sense of whimsical.”

Mitchell sees strangers and interprets faces and figures, sometimes from whomever he passes on the main street of Marion.

“I do abstract figures,” he said. “Pretty much, everyone has individual qualities to them. So, even a very common person has something very unique about them.”

Mitchell uses acrylics, watercolor and ink for his art.

One piece shows a clown. Another frames a farmer. One is dubbed “Black Widow” and is Mitchell’s interpretation of “a bitter, old woman with multiple husbands.”

This 20-year-old artist looks for distinctive features, too, like how a person acts or how they dress.

One humorous drawing shows a group of women — with beehive hairdos — playing bridge. Another funny one, dubbed “Yearbook,” depicts Mitchell’s interpretation of “a very bad yearbook photo.”

What sets him apart: big teeth. Many of his drawings feature caricatures of people with tall grins. “That’s just always how I drew them,” Mitchell said, matter-of-factly.

“I think just with the teeth and the big eyes, it just sort of gives them a sense of startled emotion, like they’re gritting their teeth,” Mitchell added.

“And if you look at most of mine, all the eyes are usually bloodshot.”


Information from: Bristol Herald Courier, http://www.bristolnews.com

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