Opening with a reception from 5–6:30 p.m. on September 1, Black Mountain Center for the Arts (BMCA) presents Homage to Miss Sarah, a collection of works by American visionary painter Onicas Gaddis. Gaddis, who has a piece in the Black Mountain College Museum and Art Center’s permanent collection, refers to his style as “spiritual expressionism,” a term initially used by gallery owner Frank Gromling to describe the artist’s work. “I’m going to absorb the air and feel the spirit of Black Mountain while I’m creating these pieces,” says Gaddis. “I’ve been painting for 25 years now and I’m excited to have this opportunity to show my work at BMCA.”
Miss Sarah is Sarah Carlisle Towery, the namesake of The Alabama Art Colony in Lake Martin, AL, where Gaddis studied for two years. “Miss Sarah was my first mentor in painting, and also a friend,” says Gaddis. At 90 years old, Miss Sarah offered guidance to Gaddis that would shape his style and career as an artist. “She told me not to think about the finished painting, but allow the painting to tell me what it wants to be,” Gaddis says. “She would also bring my lunch every Tuesday and we would all sit around the lunch table and listen to her tell stories of her travels.”
In honor of the 90th anniversary of Black Mountain College this year, BMCA was eager to feature artists with ties to the college. “We value the work Onicas is doing and his connection to Black Mountain College through his teacher Sarah Carlisle Towery, who was a student there in 1944,” says BMCA executive director Lori Cozzi. “We have a desire to stay connected to the historical roots of art in our valley and a really exciting and significant part of our history is the Black Mountain College. Additionally, Onicas’ art is unique and bold and unlike anything else we’ve had in our gallery before.”
The show’s title came to Gaddis when he signed the agreement for the exhibition. He remembers that the last time he saw Miss Sarah, she asked him to critique her painting in progress: Homage to The Square. “I felt so honored that she would ask for my opinion on her painting,” Gaddis says. “I have the same feeling now, 25 years later, to have this opportunity to show my heart and soul on canvas. I would say that the unifying theme in this work is gratitude.”
BMCA is located at 225 West State Street in Black Mountain. Homage to Miss Sarah will be on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through September 29. BMCA will also be participating in Downtown Black Mountain’s annual Sourwood Festival by hosting a local pottery market in the rear of the building on Saturday and Sunday, August 12–13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m each day. Learn more at BlackMountainArts.org. Find Gaddis’ art at The Elephant Makerspace & Market in Asheville, Miya Gallery in Weaverville, Avery Gallery in Marietta, GA, and at OnicasArt.com.