The Hinesville Area Arts Council opened 2015 with a reception for local artist Ashley Kukula Cuevas last Thursday at the HAAC’s downtown gallery on Commerce Street.
Cuevas – who teaches studio classes and leads numerous other artistic events for the arts council – said she has been doing art her entire life, and her latest exhibit is a showcase of “the last 15 years of artistic exploration and learning,” according to the description at the gallery’s entrance.
Local art lovers had a lot to take in, as the gallery walls were nearly covered over with Cuevas' originals.
Cuevas said that the pieces were separated by category, with a self-portrait corner to the immediate left of the gallery’s entrance – “kind of like an introduction,” she said.
Next to the self-portrait corner is a “wall of figurative work,” followed by a section of acrylic paintings. Viewers making their way around the room were also treated to print works, photographs, a section of landscapes and wildlife and an assortment of illustrations.
Media included watercolor acrylic, oil, linoleum printing, etching, intaglio printing, pastel, charcoal and pencil – “I think everything, almost, except I don’t have any tapestry and I don’t have any lithography,” Cuevas noted.
Though the exhibit demonstrates her proficiency with nearly every artistic medium available, Cuevas said that her “go-tos” are acrylic painting and pastel drawing.
“If someone wants me to do something that’s kind of difficult, I’ll choose one of (those), just because I can be really accurate and comfortable with those two,” she said. “But I like to do it all.”
The exhibit, titled “The Convoluted Studio Show,” is not only meant to show Cuevas’ progression and variety as an artist, but also is a farewell, of sorts, to Cuevas and her family.
Cuevas’ husband currently is stationed at Fort Stewart, but has been reassigned to Germany. Along with their son, the Cuevases – plus a second child, due in late February or early March – will head for their new assignment in the “May/June timeframe,” she said.
“I can’t express how much we’ll miss her,” said Leah Poole, CEO of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and Chairwoman of the HAAC board. “Dominic (Cuevas’ son) learned to walk in here … I’ll miss hearing his little footsteps in here. We’re very sad to see her go.”
Poole recollected meeting Cuevas at the Hinesville Farmers Market in the fall of 2011, shortly after the arts council gallery opened.
“She was there selling her art, and I said, ‘Hey, how would you like to teach some classes for us?’” Poole remembered.
She said that Cuevas – who holds advanced degrees in curriculum and art instruction – was immediately drawn to the idea.
Poole, who has participated in studio-art classes, said she will miss Cuevas’ instruction style.
“I have no background in art, but I’ve taken classes where I came away saying, ‘Hey, that really looks like a flower,’” she said. “Because (Cuevas) is so patient, I’m able to do it.
“My son actually wants to be an artist because of Ashley,” Poole continued. “She’s impacted a lot of people.”
Cuevas said that she plans to continue to teach as much as she can in her few remaining months in Hinesville, considering the pending delivery of her second child.
“I’m optimistic that I’m going to still be able to teach everything, but if I’m in labor on the day of class, I’ve got a couple people I can contact to substitute,” she said.
She also hopes her current exhibit – which runs through Jan. 30 – will help her unload some of her back catalog before shipping overseas with her family.
“There’s got to be easily 300 pieces in here,” Cuevas said. “Ideally, I’d like to find good homes for a lot of them because we’re moving, and this is all in my garage.”
Cuevas said that about 90 percent of the works on display will be for sale.
A discounted sale of pieces from the exhibit will be held on Jan. 24 and 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the arts council gallery.