Meet the Charlotte Artists

Kasey Murray
Kasey Murray

Charlotte’’s art scene is blossoming right in front our eyes. Let us introduce you to four local artists producing some of the best works in the South.

Windy O’Connor

Abstract painter Windy O’Connor isn’t content to merely live in Charlotte; she uses the city daily to garner inspiration for her work. From The Mint Museum to fellow artists to spring landscapes, O’Connor is never short of new ideas for her paintings.

The Fayetteville native and design graduate decided to begin painting seven years ago under the tutelage of Andy Braitman at Braitman Studio in Charlotte. O’Connor credits Braitman as encouraging her to utilize multiple mediums in her work, such as paper, cold wax, string and graphite, in addition to experimenting with different ways to manipulate paint to create varying degrees of textures and thicknesses.

Now, O’Connor takes those mediums and, working with oil, uses her muse of the moment and gets to work. “My inspiration is constantly changing. I am inspired by art! The light on a marsh, the foggy mist in spring, the warm colors of a field in Eastern NC. I love fashion and will incorporate fashion trends and color combinations in my work,” she says.
Not that O’Connor considers her work, well, work. Although she paints full-time, O’Connor views it as a therapeutic blessing more than anything else. “My mind is completely focused on the activity and using my creativity. I am at peace when I paint, so it calls me every day. Hey, I am not going to lie – it is fun!” she says.

O’Connor’s long-term goals lie in staying true to what she views as a “lifelong journey and pursuit of creating something that can bring another person joy.”

O’Connor is represented by Hidell Brooks Gallery in Charlotte. Visit windyoconnorfineart.com to see Windy’’s artwork.

Windy O'Connor
Windy O’Connor

Sharon Dowell

 

It’s difficult to brand Sharon Dowell as a particular type of artist, and for good reason: She has explored avenues as a painter, photographer, arts administrator, artist-in-residence in foreign countries and public art creator. For someone who has dreamt of a career in the arts since she was a child, Dowell seems to have exhausted available vocations, but she shows no signs of slowing.

A “former young love” brought Dowell to the Queen City, but her true love, painting, has kept her here. Dowell admires Charlotte’s “energy of place, architecture, and the stories of its inhabitants” and incorporates those aspects into her paintings frequently, utilizing acrylic paint on canvas, panel or paper, along with the odd spatula, fork or stick.

Dowell has found a deep sense of place in what she describes as a “genuine, helpful” community of artists in Charlotte, but she laments the lack of enthusiasm and support in other neighborhoods and communities around Charlotte. “[Charlotte] has a long way to go in terms of advancing appreciation of the arts by the general public. I think education is key; both families and schools need to incorporate art into their everyday lives,” she says.

Dowell will have a major hand in doing just that: She was recently commissioned by CATS Transit to design the art for the up-and-coming 28th Street Blue Line Light Rail Station, coming in 2017. Currently, though, she manages the Rowe Art Galleries at UNC-C and teaches an art gallery internship class. She also works as the artist-in-residence with The Wall Poems of Charlotte, a new initiative by poet Amy Bagwell, to bring more poetry to NC; the first mural is already located on the side of Dandelion Market in Uptown.

Although she has her hands full with myriad projects, Dowell’s main aims are to continue to “promote other artists and stay involved with the arts community.”

For more information visit sharondowell.com.

Sharon Dowell
Sharon Dowell

Martique Lorray

A Miami native, Martique Lorray harbors “a great curiosity for the human drama,” especially that of Charlotteans. Inspired by Charlotte’s history and burgeoning status as a melting pot of sorts, Lorray has commissioned a permanent installation, the “Migration Milepost,” topped with a weathervane, at Windsor Park Elementary directly influenced by the distinct number of family origins at the school.

A self-taught artist who also gives a nod to the direction her colleagues have provided, Lorray craves a chaos in her work, striving to reach a place where she can “push concepts further, [with] less structure” and explore questions that press her, such as the concept of “home,” and why humans develop deep attachments to certain places.

Lorray finds the current Charlotte scene inspiring and exciting. “I feel the residents have a strong desire to be affected by art and to interact with unique artistic elements within their daily lives,” she says. She is also encouraged by what she finds to be immense support, encouragement and enthusiasm on behalf of the city and Arts and Science Council of Charlotte.

Lorray has been in the art world since 1997 and described her art as “surreal, allegorical, earthy and haunting,” but consistently finds new life for her pieces by exploring the human condition.

Email Martique at Martique@centaurarts.com.

Martique Lorray
Martique Lorray

Kasey Murray

 

Born and raised in Charlotte, Kasey Murray has been an artist her whole life.  At the College of Charleston after receiving her BA in Studio Art with a concentration in painting and printmaking, Kasey traveled around the world before returning to Charlotte to pursue a career in Massage Therapy.  

In her studio in Charlotte, Kasey is surrounded by some of her art but mostly letters, pictures and memorabilia from her life and travels. The only art that adorns her studio walls are that of her uncle.  Her influences span through countless art movements, cultures, and experiences  but Kasey’s main influence is her uncle, Phillip Murray.

“I remember the summer before he died in 1996, Phil came to live with us and he spent the whole summer painting. He couldn’t walk at that point and I remember sitting in awe at his incredible vision. His talent was genuine and his passion was contagious. He is by far my biggest influence and I consider it the highest honor when people compare his work to mine.”
Kasey’s art has an illustrative quality to it with vibrant colors and graphic lines.  While some pieces appear almost child-like, there is still a very much real quality about her paintings. The past five years Kasey has dedicated most of her art work to private portrait commissions of pets.

I just kind of fell into it. I didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I want to paint pets’. People just started coming to me and asking me to do them.. So I did. People love their pets, and they want to immortalize them.”

Though she loves painting dogs and cats, she has started painting human portraits as well, though they aren’t your typical portrait. She combines her passion of printmaking to add some color and movement to her portraits. She also has a tendency to add personal touches to her works, almost inside jokes that you have to search for within them.  It is what makes her style unique and personal.

I call it ‘sentimental art’. I like to add physical objects or symbols in my pieces. It’s more than a portrait.  It’s a scrapbook of that person or animal’s life. It’s sometimes the small things you remember most about someone, either physical or emotional and I like to highlight those things.”

For private commissions you can e-mail Kasey at kaseymurray52@gmail.com. For more information or to view her previous works go to www.artbykaseymurray.blogspot.com.