Local artist explains how, why abstracts are painted

For those of us who have no talent in art, it is difficult, if not impossible, to interpret abstract art. Some observers look at an abstract and say, “I could paint a picture like that.”

That may be true, but it would not have the most important ingredients: meaning and emotion.

Although I’ve written about artists for many years, I still don’t know if it’s a put-down or a compliment to ask an artist to explain their work. I once asked an artist to interpret an abstract he had on display in a local art exhibit. His answer was, “It’s whatever you see in it.” It was a dark abstract, and knowing that he was a Vietnam veteran, I assumed it was his reflection on the war, but maybe it was another emotion.

There’s a lot more to abstract art than splashing paint on a canvas. Local artist Amy Strickland of Cerro Gordo explains it better than anyone I’ve ever talked to about it.

“Abstracts come from your feelings inside,” she said. “It starts with an idea and transfers your emotions to the canvas with color and arrangements. Abstracts cover events in your life, transferring color, arrangement and line.

“Art reflects sad times and good times,” she added. “I look at my abstracts as studies in form, color, line and arrangement. Each piece defines itself and the viewer has their own interpretation of what they see and feel when viewing the piece. In my mind, that’s what makes abstract art so unique.”

Strickland has a large exhibit of her paintings in the Columbus County Arts Council building, including other art styles as well as abstracts. A small exhibit within the exhibit has several art pieces by her father, the late F.C. Eastman.

“He was a designer and builder and drew beautifully,” Strickland said. “He always wanted me to draw, but as a hardheaded teenager, I wanted to rebel and do the opposite of what he wanted.”

Somewhere along life’s pathway she began to appreciate what her father wanted for her. He had apparently recognized her talent early on, long before she did.

“I went from abstract to realism and back to abstract again,” she explained. She points out that one abstract “is family chaos, and I’m in the middle,” she said of the painting.

Strickland is also a 3D artist and has included a few of her clay sculptures in the exhibit.

She said she started developing her art in all mediums more than 65 years ago in schools and workshops in Washington, D.C., where she was born and raised. She continued art studies later in France and Germany for a year and a half, and when she returned to America, she resumed art classes at Corcoran School of Art in Washington.

Strickland “married into” Columbus County after meeting Bill Strickland in Washington. They lived in Maryland but Bill felt the need to move back home in the 1970s to help after a death in his family.

“When we moved to this area many years ago, I continued my art education at Southeastern Community College, enjoying many wonderful art classes and workshops,” she said, giving high praise to the late Christa Balogh who founded and headed up SCC’s art department.

“For me, art is a reflection of our society, events in our lives and many levels of emotions within us,” she continued. “With all that we put out there for the world to see, we also have to remain true to our convictions.”

Strickland’s exhibit can be seen during Arts Council business hours Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Arts Council building is located at the corner of South Madison and Pecan streets across from Sherwin Williams in downtown Whiteville.