When Kathy Watson opened Katharos Art and Gift in August, she wanted to be able to display artwork in her own way.
In the newest exhibit at the Roanoke gallery, Watson has brought together women artists to celebrate the work of women and show that a woman’s work is never done.
The “Women’s Work” exhibit offers pieces that range from traditional craft working to modern art.
The event aligns with Women’s History Month, which Watson says is a “marvelous coincidence” since she had originally planned the event for January. The exhibit is one of two being offered this month celebrating women artists.
The Orchard Gallery, 6312 Covington Road in Fort Wayne, is hosting “Art Becomes Her” through March 30.
Watson reached out to women of different ages and different backgrounds to showcase their work in her gallery. Four of the women, who work in different mediums, talk about their impulse to create art, including that which was inspirational or thrust upon them by a chipmunk.
For former scientist and glass artist Danielle Payne, curiosity has been her inspiration for experimentation in the chemistry lab and the classroom.
“They are the two sides of the same coin; curiosity and art,” Payne says. “All the artists I’ve ever talked to are captivated and fascinated by the world.”
Payne, a lifelong resident of Fort Wayne, has worked with glass for more than 20 years, opening her store and education center, Glasslink, 11 years ago. Payne creates dishes and other objects using molten glass through a process called glass fusion. Payne often experiments with colors and techniques in her work.
“Most of my art is, ‘What happens if I try this?’ ” Payne says. “Then people only get to the good stuff.”
Payne says that over the years she has been approached about her techniques so many times that she has shifted her focus from being an artist to a teacher.
“I am such a naturally curious person and I love that in other people,” Payne says. “I love to bring that out of people.”
For Payne, her love for art and science always seem to coincide. Growing up in a family of professional artists, Payne took as many art classes as she did advanced-science classes at Homestead High School. She graduated from college with a bachelor’s in biology and a minor in chemistry from Purdue University.
Payne was a chemist and medical lab supervisor before the need to create “just came out of me,” she says. Curious about stained glass, Payne began taking local glass art classes. As her work began to advance, she traveled around the country to take classes from nationally recognized glass artists.
Payne says her chemistry background has helped her think of techniques, but it hasn’t been necessary to her glass work. Payne says that the transparency and translucence of glass attracts her to glass art.
Payne has created for the exhibit a fused-glass piece that looks like stained glass.
She says that art history has been biased toward male artists, and that the “Women’s Work” exhibit can help change prejudices.
“It’s just a fantastic way to come together,” Payne says.
Rebecca Stockert says she didn’t decide to become an artist – she was born one.
Stockert, who grew up in the small town of Waterloo and says she has been drawing as long she can remember, was accepted into the ceramics program at the University of Saint Francis.
But Stockert says growing up in a blue-collar family can be challenging for an aspiring artist.
“It was hard for my family to see me go to school instead of going straight to work because they didn’t understand,” Stockert says. “I had to prove to myself more than anybody else that I could do this.”
Now at 29, Stockert has established her name in the local arts scene. She began the arts and crafts program at the Firefly Coffee House on North Anthony Boulevard in order to give local artists a platform to show their work and now is the gallery assistant for Artlink. Stockert will graduate with her master’s degree in painting in May.
Stockert says returning to school made her face her own personal fear of failure.
“When I left school, I wasn’t doing ceramics anymore. I think painting is what I wanted to do to begin with, but I was so afraid to fail at it,” Stockert says.
Besides juggling her career and college course work, Stockert is a single mother to her 5-year-old son, Ezra. Stockert says she has realized she doesn’t have to be “Einstein during the day and Betty Crocker at night.”
“Women have to sacrifice a lot to make art,” Stockert says.
For the exhibit, Stockert has made a nude figure painting of a woman that started from a simple sketch. Although Stockert says it’s important to celebrate the work of women, she would like to see the gender play less of a role in the future.
“I don’t want to be seen as a woman artist; I want to be an artist,” Stockert says. “I wanted to be respected for my work.”
Bonnie Manning says she became a photographer the day a chipmunk scampered into her yard.
“There was a chipmunk in my yard, and I thought, ‘I have a camera somewhere,’ ” Manning says. “I was looking for a medium and the chipmunk seemed to insist.”
This simple interaction has inspired her to be an artistic photographer for almost 10 years.
Manning, who received her bachelor’s degree in education and art from the University of Saint Francis in 1976, is the author of two children’s books – “The Dog Who Owned a Photographer,” which is about her dog, Martha; and “The Polka-dotted Cat.”
Manning used her photography for the first book and painted watercolor images for the second.
Though she enjoys painting, Manning says she doesn’t plan to leave photography.
“I love working with people,” Manning says. “It’s the interaction I thrive on.”
For the exhibit, Manning has submitted a portrait of a woman dressed as a pioneer, peeling potatoes at last year’s Johnny Appleseed Festival. Manning says that once she saw the women at the festival, she felt she had traveled back in time.
“I’m very sensitive to the person that I’m photographing. It dictates a lot of the approach,” Manning says. “My work is highlighting the work of others.”
Manning says women are able to express “universal truths through individuality without losing sight of their femininity.” Manning hopes the exhibit will be a re-energizing source of inspiration for all the artists.
“Anytime someone loves what they do it’s always inspiration. Even if I don’t use that particular medium,” Manning says. “When you see that heightened level of passion, it’s inspiring.”
Carol Listenberger says she knew she wanted to be an artist in the first grade while watching a young girl in her class sketch a human face. While the rest of the class drew stick figures and shapes, the girl could actually draw human features. Listenberger tried to copy the sketch.
“I studied everything she did,” Listenberger says. “I wanted to be able to do that, and I was inspired.”
Fifty years later, Listenberger has found her medium as a jewelry maker and beginning quilter, embracing different styles and inspirations for her work. Listenberger says her parents talked her out of becoming a professional artist, but she never stopped her creativity.
“It’s hard to put my finger on what it is. I just feel like a person who just has to make things,” Listenberger says.
Using fiber-related materials, Listenberger describes her style as tactile and abstract. She says most of her pieces “make you want to reach out and touch them.”
Listenberger began making jewelry as a way to use leftover materials from making fine art dolls. With her extra materials, Listenberger began making pins and necklaces. She also began incorporating knitting techniques to manipulate wires like yarn.
For her exhibit piece, Listenberger knitted copper wires wrapped in bamboo fibers to give a necklace a gauze-like appearance. She then added glass beads and pearls as embellishments.
As a self-taught artist, Listenberger says it’s important to encourage all creativity. She believes people sometimes can be critical of work or artists they may not understand.
“I am kind of ashamed of the attitude of a lot of people. Even if you’re not a professional artist, you can get a lot of joy out of it,” she says.
Listenberger has found support from fellow women fiber artists. She says that sort of camaraderie always breeds inspiration.
“There’s just something about sharing what you’re doing that makes ideas come,” Listenberger says.