June 2, 2005
Wilcox Co.- Albany has one, other Georgia cities have art galleries and some towns have them, also, but one gallery seems lost and out of place.
"I'm in the middle of nowhere," says Carolyn Stephens with a laugh, and she is. Her art gallery/home sits off Highway 233 South, about three miles from Rochelle in Wilcox County.
A visitor must drive up a "pulpwood truck road," as she describes it, and where quail engage in an afternoon conversation to get to her gallery. If you look closely, you'll probably see Carolyn painting through one of the home's windows, a talent encouraged by her aunt.
"I got my first oil paint set when I was 18," remembers Carolyn. "I've never had a lesson." If you believe the old saying, "Practice makes perfect," then you'll know why she turned a large part of her downstairs living space into an art gallery.
"I painted so many pictures and everybody wanted to see them, but I didn't have any place to put them," says Carolyn. Now, she does, with at least 60 oil paintings on display, some created by her students along with her creations.
A painting of a horse standing behind pine tree limbs dominates the room. It's as if the horse is hiding, but watching every thing going on in the room. Other paintings of a local church, a rattlesnake crossing a dirt road she titled "Right of Way", a man playing a guitar and her current work of a young girl painting highlight the gallery.
"I think the gallery lives with me," says Carolyn, when asked if she lives with the gallery or if the gallery lives with her.
Her students' work sits proudly in the gallery. Carolyn teaches art lessons with five students learning from a master oil painter. She sounds more like a gentle cheerleader than a teacher. "Never thought of it like that," says Carolyn.
"Light touch. There you go," says Carolyn as she looks over the shoulder of a student painting a frog. "Down this way," says Carolyn as she moves her thumb inches from the fresh paint. The student gives it a try, placing a little blue paint placed over a black area. "There you go. Very nicely done," says Carolyn. "That brought out the blue more."
She has a calm, secure voice with an encouraging depth, verbally connecting easily with her students. "It's as if I'm painting every stroke with them," says Carolyn, who encourages her students to take creative risks.
"Try it and see. It should go. Go with a real light stroke 'till you see," says Carolyn encouragingly, and it works. She shares the joy of a student's painting coming to life.
"I love to see them getting a painting to a stage where you can really tell what it is," says Carolyn.
Teaching has its joys. "It's surprising what you see and what I see," says Carolyn, returning the canvas of a young girl painting to the easel, bathed in a soft afternoon sunlight, while painting highlights on the sleeve.
Carolyn opens Dirt Road Gallery from 1:00 - 6:00PM Tuesday through Saturday, or visit the web site: www.dirtroadgallery.com.