For engaged couple Lisa Abernathy and Seth Corts, art is about the big world and the little things within it. “We’re interested in history, the ways in which humankind’s presence has shaped the natural world, the vastness of the seas and the skies and the mountains, and the minuteness of daisy petals, cobwebs, and broken shells,” says Abernathy. Their interest in the minutia of everyday life is evident in the intensely detailed pieces they create.
The duo, featured in Oak Barrel Tavern’s first art show, creates distinct works that focus on animals, nature, and the shared human experience. Says Corts, “I enjoy the visuals of a push and pull, a sort of movement, either slight or grandiose, which to me is a lot like the movements of the world around us, the pushing up of a plant from the ground or water cleaving a path through the land. It’s that struggle to survive and adapt that intrigues me and has been a subject in my work since day one.”
Corts meticulously uses pen and ink to draw thousands of lines that come together to create a picture, often in the vein of “Southern gothic stories.” Hailing from the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains, Corts creates art that is influenced by his childhood. “I was raised running through the woods and exploring the barns and chicken coops laced throughout,” he says. “I got an up-close-and-personal experience with the way the people worked the land and lived their lives. It fascinated me and haunted my imagination. I would hear stories of ghosts and spooks, moonshine bootleggers, and the rough and hardscrabble ways men and women worked and lived.”
And Abernathy’s method is just as painstaking. She illustrates on paper and then carefully carves away each line to reveal an illuminated piece. “There’s an elegant simplicity to my work with papercuts,” she says. “The process evokes in me the awe and intrigue I experienced as a child when hearing stories or watching puppet shows.” She feels there is a magical component to her pieces. In addition, Abernathy creates fabric collages, a method which came about when she started filling journals with her poetry, which she then covered in fabric.
While there is a darkness to their work, each piece does seem to have a spark of magic that gives it a light, fantastical feel. Landscapes look like they belong in fairy tales, and indeed, Abernathy sees a similarity between her pieces and the illustrations in a book of Grimm’s fairy tales. Her biggest inspirations, besides the poetry of Mary Oliver and Forough Farrokhzad, are those very fairy tales. She also studies Chinese medicine, which she says goes hand in hand with art. “The realm of Chinese medicine has expanded my vision of the cycles and rhythms of the world, my holistic understanding of people, and given me a deeper look into the ways poetry can infuse all aspects of life.”
The upcoming show is exciting for the pair, as they enjoy showing their work together. “We work well together, have common goals, and want to contribute to our artistic community,” says Abernathy.
Says Corts, “I hope people can get inside the image and move around a bit, feel the scene I created, and be a part of it.”