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Thea Foundation's 2019 Lineup of Art Department Artists


Thea Foundation is excited to announce the full 2019 lineup of emerging artists to be featured in our gallery as part of our Thea’s Art Department quarterly exhibition series. Thea’s Art Department has showcased dozens of Arkansas artists from across the state with month-long solo exhibitions, a first for many featured artists in the series. In the new year, we’ll welcome artists from Fayetteville, Little Rock and Stuttgart in the months of February, May, August and November.

Each exhibition is kicked off with a reception including heavy hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine, and a chance for guests to purchase art as well as win a piece. Our Art Department receptions have grown to be one of the city’s most anticipated art events. Thea Foundation was named “Best Venue for Emerging Artists” by the Arkansas Times in 2018.

February 1: Joëlle Storet

Joëlle Storet was born in Brussels, Belgium and lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She is an accomplished emerging artist and is also the current Gallery Manager of Art Ventures NWA (formerly known as the Fayetteville Underground). She has exhibited several works in Fayetteville, Bentonville, Vienna and Berlin. She is a graduate of the University of Arkansas with a background in Cultural Anthropology, Semiotics and Linguistics.

Personal “rebirths” of self occur for many reasons for all people. In the case of the artwork of Joëlle Storet, the most recent Renaissance is the most personal. For the longest time, the Belgian-born Congolese artist was creating inspired pieces that were incredibly popular in the town that nurtured her creativity the most, Fayetteville, as well as around the world. Now she is diving deep into a part of herself that she used to feel a little shy exposing. Her art as well as her upbringing can be described virtually in the same fashion. It is a deep Afro-Teutonic Synthesis.

“This particular body of work was heavily inspired by my bi-cultural upbringing,” says Storet. “I was born and raised in Europe until I was 12 and am fluent in several languages since age 7. Despite being half-African from mother’s side, I spent very little time in Zaire. The culturally-ingrained experiences I had amassed over time were constructed by my mother’s presence through language, comic books and film. Belgium, being one of the former colonial powers, has one of the largest collections of authentic Central African art in the world at the Royal Museum of Tervuren. I was never able to see in such detail again either in Europe or America.”

May 3: Bryant Phelan

Bryant Phelan is an Arkansas native known for his unique, handcrafted luxury leather goods. Phelan began his journey with leather design in his early teens after being inspired by the works of traditional Italian masters by way of a leather Venetian masquerade mask brought home, framed and displayed by his mother, whom he finds to be one of his biggest style inspirations for his art.

His take on design is often a reintroduction or modernization of classics, manipulating one or many design concepts, such as shape, texture and embellishment, while holding some variable constant. He has a love for the fantastical and surreal, being inspired by dreams and nature, but holds luxury, glamour and quality in the highest of regard.

Of his brand, O’Faolain, Phelan says: “It’s a brand about personality. Taking portions of the personality and putting a magnifying glass on them. I think we all have facets of ourself that we love to embody when we go out or dress up. That’s what I aim to imbue in my work: Personality. It’s all about relating to and loving yourself through art. This art is just wearable.”

Phelan has runway shows each season in fabulous notable cities such as New York Fashion Week, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, LA and, of course, Little Rock and North West Arkansas. His work has been published and featured by ELLE, Nylon, Ellements, Shuba, Lucy’s, Dazed, Spirit and Flesh magazines among others.

August 2: Sulac (Sean Sapp)

Born in Midland, Texas, Sean Sapp, better known as Sulac, moved to Little Rock in 1997.

“This was when I first became aware that places existed where people would allow you to hang your art, and maybe even sell it, (for money),” He says. “Well, I had art, and I needed money.”

Sulac lives in North Little Rock with his wife and cat. He uses whatever medium is laying around the house to make drawings, paintings and collages in a cartoonish semi-flat style.

November 1: Justin Bryant

Born in Stuttgart, Arkansas, Justin Bryant received his BFA in Studio Art from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2012 and his MFA in Studio Art from Louisiana State University in 2018. He has taken courses at Penland School of Craft, Ox-bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency, the Art Students League in New York and he was also a participant at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (’17). Bryant’s recent work investigates the past and present imagery of African-Americans to reflect a multi-contextual narrative of poetry, personal narrative and history.

In his work, he uses found objects, painting, drawing and video to suggest a fugitive notion of blackness. Bryant has shown at the Zoe B. Art Center in Chicago Illinois, Ten Gallery in New Orleans and he will soon be featured at Michigan State University’s LookOut! Art Gallery.

Of his work, Bryant says: As a point of departure, my work uses the poem “Mask” by Maya Angelou as a lens to view various black mediascapes. Central to this idea are notions of black fugitivity, improvisation and negation. This position questions notions of the archive and how it thinks of itself in relation to Africa diasporic ontology. The work is concerned with how things are kept and dispersed in black culture. Because of such concerns, there is a strategy within the imagery to leave things rendered visible and in other places invisible. The work is not concerned with changing this positionality in an explicit way that makes aware a critique, but rather the function of the work is to suggest an understanding of ontology that is not always revealed on the surface. I use painting, printmaking, performance and video to suggest a layered reflection of this counter archive.

Stay up to date about exhibitions at Thea Foundation via The Art Department’s website: www.theasartdepartment.com. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for event updates and details as we look forward to our exciting next season of art.

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