When does one call themselves an “artist”? That was one of the questions that came up when I met Charlotte Art League (CAL) member and North Carolina native, Courtney Salton, at Free Range Brewing to discuss her artwork. The brewery is just a hop, skip, and jump from CAL, so after checking out her work at the current exhibition (where she had four large beautiful pieces on display), we figured the brewery was the perfect place to settle in and discuss art. However, we both arrived a bit famished, and as luck would have it, we were able to score some hot empanadas and fried plantains from The Chimi Spot, a Cuban-Dominican food truck, fortuitously parked next door at Divine Barrel Brewing for the NoDaHood Market FestiFall.
With our brews and bites in hand, we got down to talking. I learned that Salton has been drawing her whole life and has been interested in art ever since she can remember. Growing up in Winston-Salem, she took art classes as a child, but as many of us do, followed her parents’ advice and put art to the side to follow a more traditional path. After graduating from Saint Mary’s High School in Raleigh, Salton notes, “The College of Charleston’s campus won me over with its old buildings and low country location.” She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, noting, “all the while I soaked in the views, unconsciously gathering material for art years later.”
Directly after college, Salton moved to Charlotte and met her husband, a Charlotte native. and together, they raised two children, three dogs, and a guinea pig. About six years ago, Salton realized she needed to paint, as she says, “to get it out.” “Art is what words cannot express: what I cannot say in words I say with art,” she explains. Salton confided that at first, she only painted for herself, rarely sharing with others that she even painted. Then after discussing painting with a local artist friend, Salton was encouraged to take classes at Braitman Studio where she quickly progressed from the basics in figure and landscape, to the intermediate classes, and finally to the advanced classes where she still studies today. She hopes to always be learning and growing, noting, “my desire to paint has only increased as has my knowledge and awareness of the local and national art scene.”
When viewing Salton’s oil paintings, you are struck by large, ambitious canvases covered with bold, confident brushstrokes, thick textures, and a rich use and juxtaposition of colors. Salton’s style has been described as “aggressive impressionism.” She uses a lot of medium to build up and model the oil paint. However, Salton also creates small, more intimate works in watercolor, vibrant in their color and composition.
Regardless of the size or medium, the sense of movement and motion in each painting captivates the viewer and pulls them into the piece. One theme Salton has revisited several times is the image of koi swimming, and this of course naturally lends itself to movement and expression. However, she also has the ability to capture the feeling of motion in paintings of subjects that are usually considered static—roadways converging at a point in the distance, tree limbs stretching up into the sky, or flower petals extending out from their stem. You can feel the love affair the artist has with the brush and subject.
Salton says, “My trips around the Carolinas provide inspiration, whether at the beach or mountains.” On one such trip, Salton literally jumped out of the car to capture the image of an old red barn shed behind a field of Black-eyed Susan flowers. She says, “I am moved by the way the light hits the subject, the dance of colors, and the movement in the scene.” While Salton will take photographs of a scene, she works more from memory of how a place makes her feel. This feeling comes through to the viewer of her artwork. “I love the way I feel when I’m painting. There is nothing like it. I feel most at peace with a brush in my hand,” Salton reveals.
Salton considers herself an “emerging artist.” Her acceptance into Shain Gallery’s Up-and-Coming Invitational show in July 2019 helped her “come out of my shell and express myself” as well as start to get noticed. Her involvement at CAL has also been part of her journey. Salton says, “It’s empowering to be a part of CAL; to see how a show goes together, what goes on behind the scenes, and what makes an event work.” CAL is about “supporting other artists, and learning about yourself through the connections you create by being a member,” she says.
As a developing professional artist and active community member, Salton frequently contributes her artwork to support various charitable causes throughout Charlotte. For example, she participated in the Bee Mighty Gala which provides medical support to NICU infants, and Pat’s Place BBQ & Blue Jeans event which helps abused children learn to thrive again. Salton also donated work to the Myers Park Presbyterian Church Art Auction for Youth Scholarship for children in need, The Learning Collaborative Green Apple Gig Auction which raises money for young hearts and minds, and the Charlotte Country Day School Art Pop-Up, just to name a few.
In the coming months, you can see and purchase Salton’s artwork at the McColl Center Members’ Exhibit at 721 N. Tryon Street, from December 5ththrough January 4th, as well as the Good News Shop at Christ Church at 1412 Providence Road, in March 2020. Salton recently signed on with Straight to Art (www.straighttoart.com) out of Charleston, SC, where she will be launched as a new artist starting in February 2020. And of course, her work is available 24/7 on her website. (Instagram @courtneysaltonart)
The next show at CAL is the Winter Juried Show with the opening reception and awards ceremony on December 6th from 6 to 9 pm, with the show running through January 31st. This is one of CAL’s biggest shows of the year, so be sure to come on by.