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‘WOW’ FACTOR: New JCA exhibits spark amazement

If “wow” is a word, then that’s the word that best describes the art exhibitions that opened Wednesday at the Johnson Center for the Arts.

Montgomery artist Winfred Hawkins and Birmingham artist Leanna Leithauser Lesley are the featured artists and “Wow!” is how early viewers of the exhibits have responded.

“Winfred and Leanna are extremely talented and creative young Alabama artists,” said Wiley White, JCA exhibition coordinator. “The work they are doing is absolutely amazing. You can’t view either exhibit once. You have to go back again and again. They draw you back.”

“Reality is Not Real” features subjects that are not real but then reality is not real, so viewers just stand back and enjoy the artistic creativity of Winfred Hawkins, White said.

“Winfred’s art is colorful; it’s fun; it’s active and energetic and it’s questioning,” White said.

Hawkins started drawing at an early age. He developed his drafting skills by watching his father and copying animals from nature books.

“Winfred said he was basically a copying machine,” White said. “He would draw just about an-ything that was put in front of him.”

While in high school, Hawkins was commissioned by the Rosa Parks Museum to design 10 bronze roundels for the outside of the museum. He completed the project after graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Lesley is a fiber artist and her “Shaken by the Roots” exhibit includes needlepoint portraits of jazz musicians and also historic quilts.

“What is so absolutely amazing, and almost unbelievable, about Leanna’s needlepoint portraits is that they are done freehand,” White said. “There is no sketch or drawing on the needlepoint canvas. It is completely blank. She begins with the eyes of the person because she said, if you don’t get the eyes right, nothing else will be right.”

“Shaken by the Roots” includes a portrait of Ray Charles. Lesley used the only photograph of Charles without his sunglasses. The exhibition includes several other noted jazz musicians.   

“Leanna’s exhibition includes needlepoint for chair covers and cell phone purses,” White said. “The exhibit also features quilts based on the Civil Rights movement.”

The “Reality Is Not Real” and “Shaken by the Roots” exhibits will hang at the arts center until February 22. The JCA will host an artists’ reception for Hawkins and Lesley from 6 until 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 16 and the community is invited.

“The reception will be an opportunity to view the exhibitions and hear the artists talk about their work,” White said.

The JCA regular hours are from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and until 3 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free.