By Gina Malone
When Margie Kluska retired from a career in computer science, something old became new again. As a child, she enjoyed drawing and would borrow her mother’s box of pastels to add color to her creations. “Early on, I conquered the challenges of proportions and perspective,” she says, though, “I really didn’t understand at that time about value and chromas,” she adds. Her career tapped into her strong suits of math and science. “For 40 years I was deep in analytics, so when I retired I was ready for something new,” Kluska says. “It was time for me to play in the creative world of art.”
After visiting and considering all of the mountainous regions of the country, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Asheville won out for a place to retire. “We built a house with spectacular views of the mountains and the Asheville valley, which has become my inspiration for so many of my paintings,” she says.
Her childhood homes in Cleveland Heights, OH, were situated on forest edges and she “developed an early interest in drawing trees, forest settings and all the little creatures that dwell there.” Her mother was busy with raising five children, but, Kluska says, she had an artistic streak and “managed to sneak in time for interior design and creating multi-media art.” Creativity swirled around Kluska in her young years, with an inventor, musicians and other expressions of talent among family members.
Throughout the years, she would keep her creative mind fed by taking art appreciation classes, traveling abroad and frequenting art museums. “I suppose one of my favorite memories was discovering the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, Italy,” she says. “Walking through the various rooms, I saw the progression of art techniques across the centuries dating back to the 13th century. It was fascinating to see how artists evolved their techniques to make their masterpieces more and more realistic and breathtaking.”
She considers herself a traditionalist in that she enjoys painting realism. “I may occasionally play with Impressionism, but my heart lives in reality,” she says. “If I can capture the beauty of Asheville—and there’s so much of it here—then I’m happy.” One of her favorite views from home is of a hawk soaring over Asheville with the Mt. Pisgah range in view. “This is what I see every day when we sit down for happy hour after a busy day,” she says. “We sit on our terrace sipping wine and gazing out at this scene. It helps me relax and reflect on the day.”
Visions such as this one won’t leave her mind until she gets them onto canvas. “I get antsy until I can sit at my easel and start the process,” she says. “The scene I observe stirs an inner emotion and that is the feeling I want to convey through my painting. If, after I finish a painting, I can look at it and feel that emotion, then I’ve achieved what I set out to create.”
The beginning and completion of paintings are her favorite times. “Those nasty middle steps can be frustrating,” she admits. “When I get into the middle layers, I get frustrated if I don’t see the results coming quickly. I want to see that vision! Then I realize that I must build the layers to create the depth that makes the finished paintings sing. After I’ve built layer upon layer, I begin to see it take shape and then the excitement returns. I’m compelled to finish all of the fine-tuning and details that will bring it to life.”
It’s that fine-tuning that fellow artist and Asheville Gallery of Art (AGA) member Sahar Fakhoury appreciates in Kluska’s work. “Margie’s attention to details makes her achieve a realistic rendering of the nature around us, yet in a beautiful and artistic way,” she says. “Her paintings reflect the beauty of Western North Carolina and make the viewer submerge into the scene.”
Kluska began her professional art career at AGA, now celebrating its 35th year in operation. “This year I am honored to be president of that gallery and proud to be associated with the other 30 co-owner/artists,” Kluska says. “I look forward to helping it thrive for another 35 years.” AGA opens its latest exhibition, Winter Solstice, on Friday, December 1. (story, p. 15) Kluska will be showing Peaceful Light, the lovely winter scene featured on this issue’s cover.
Find Margie Kluska’s art locally at Asheville Gallery of Art, 82 Patton Avenue, #2803, Asheville, and at Martin House Gallery, Blowing Rock. Learn more at AshevilleGalleryofArt.com and MargiesFineArt.com, and follow the artist on Facebook and Instagram @margiesfineart.