Artist Elise Okrend presents Into the Mystery, an exhibition of her latest work on display through Wednesday, June 30, at the Spotlight Gallery on the second floor of Wedge Studios in Asheville’s River Arts District. The collection includes pastel paintings that are ethereal in nature, inspired by the misty and moody atmospheric conditions that alter the landscape.
“My work invites the viewer to slow down, reflect and let the mystery of nature sweep them away,” says Okrend. “Each piece has a different feel, but all of them ultimately evoke a sense of calm, inner peace and a chance to reconnect within oneself.”
The Into the Mystery exhibit was inspired by a painting of the same name that, along with another of Okrend’s pieces titled Stillness, was selected for this year’s North Carolina Statewide Juried Pastel Exhibition On Common Ground: From the Mountains to the Sea. The work, created primarily using deep blue and gray tones, captures mountaintops peeking through low-lying mist. Though the original piece is shown at the statewide show in Raleigh, Okrend created a large, enhanced canvas giclée of the work for the Spotlight Gallery exhibit. Other scenes on display include a lake blanketed in summer haze, the sea foam of a cresting wave and a moonlit sky shrouded in clouds.
“So much of our lives is filled with the precision of technology and with being connected virtually, that I wanted my art in this exhibit to diverge from that,” says Okrend.
This is a change from Okrend’s past work, in which she strove for realism, painting closely from photos she took. Over the past two years, her paintings have evolved into blurred images and ethereal dreaminess. Since then, Okrend states she has noticed studio visitors spending more time with the images she creates and expressing a feeling of calmness while viewing them. That feeling recently compelled new Asheville resident Carol Verdile and her husband to purchase two pieces painted by Okrend.
“As we explored the River Arts District we were drawn to the serenity and light radiating from Elise’s pastels,” says Verdile. “There was a calming softness in them that made us want to immerse ourselves in the natural beauty she depicted. That feeling lingered and drew us back to her studio a few days later.”
Wedge Studios is located at 129 Roberts Street, in Asheville. Exhibit hours are 12–4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1–4 p.m. Sunday. Learn more at EliseOkrend.com.