Arts Galleries

Contain Your Fears at Toe River Arts Through July 23

By Natasha Anderson

Toe River Arts presents Contain Your Fear, on exhibit from Saturday, June 18, through July 23, at the Kokol Gallery in Spruce Pine. A reception will be held Friday, June 24, from 5–7 p.m. The exhibit features the work of 36 US–based artists, designers and writers who have each created one piece of art based on a personal fear.

Fear of Skeletons in the Family Closet. Vava Buitenkant, artist

“I had a thought at the beginning of the journey that we might end up with dozens of black artwork based on feelings about death,” says painter and exhibit curator Diane Bronstein. “But because we have so many people with different viewpoints, experiences and talents, I have been thrilled to see such a wide array of topics and artistic interpretations.”

Bronstein’s inspiration for Contain Your Fear came in 2020, when many creative people that she knew were greatly impacted by a number of factors including overwhelming worries of COVID-19, political upheaval and economic woes. Many had lost their jobs, opportunities, family members and friends, and were increasingly fearful of their personal and their country’s future. Some had started questioning their own value or felt too worried to continue creating.

Bronstein began contacting people to ask if they would be interested in creating a piece of art about a personal fear and how to contain it so creativity could succeed. She got a positive response from more than 50 people working in media including photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, assemblage, fiber and mixed media.

Amanda N. Simons and Lindsay P.B. Jones created Fear of Hair, a wall-mounted wooden sculpture with a miniature computer and screen mounted inside. On the screen, a series of short videos plays in a loop, featuring a person applying false eyelashes to their chin, then removing them. The outside of the sculpture is raw poplar wood, sculpted in low relief, with human hair attached. The collaboration addresses the two artists’ differing relationships to their facial hair.

Lisa Knox, who lives just a few blocks from the Boston Harbor, sought to bring awareness of the dangers of the Pacific Trash Vortex to viewers with her piece titled Mortemoceanusophobia, a term she invented to mean “fear that all ocean life will die.” Maria Epes addressed her fear of the passage of time by making a cyanotype of her skull from an x-ray and stamping it with her signature to say “I was here. I was present in this moment of my time.”

Other participants’ focuses include everything from bandwidth, small spaces and bee stings to white supremacist violence, sexual abuse and climate change.

“Our fears range from global to intensely personal,” says Bronstein. “By seeing these diverse concerns displayed as pieces of art, I hope people realize that we are all afraid of something, but by identifying what it is and creating something born from it, we diminish that fear’s power.”

The Kokol Gallery is located at 269 Oak Avenue, Spruce Pine. Learn more at

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