NORTH KINGSTOWN, RI — Although Cathy Kaiser has exhibited her photographs in Wickford Art Association exhibitions for a few years, she does not usually submit other forms of artwork to gallery exhibitions.
But at the association’s current exhibition, “Leading By Example,” Kaiser is displaying something very different from a photograph — it’s a sculpture of an octopus, made out of paper.
Kaiser created his octopus in a paper sculpture class at the Wickford Art Association. She is one of dozens of artists to submit pieces born out of Wickford art classes to “Leading By Example,” an exhibition designed to showcase the work of WAA students alongside pieces from their teachers.
Although juror Nancy Gaucher-Thomas chose the cash prize winners, the show was not selective. Each artist was invited to exhibit a piece, and Kaiser said the freedom allowed her to submit something she was proud of.
“I think if a juror looked at my octopus, they might throw it back into the ocean,” Kaiser said. “But it was an opportunity for me to put a piece in the show that I love.”
Kaiser’s octopus – and all of Leading By Example’s other pieces – is for sale. The exhibition opened Friday, January 7 and will run through January 30 at the gallery (located at 36 Beach St., North Kingstown).
WAA education coordinator Felicia Touhey said the exhibit is designed to showcase the work of association members. The pieces on display range from drawings and paintings to photography and textile work, Touhey said, and this is the third time the Wickford Art Association has held a student/teacher exhibition.
One of the instructors showcasing artwork is artist Betsey MacDonald, who has taught WAA classes such as “Sit Stay Draw,” about dog portraits, and “It’s Our Nature,” which focused on the natural world.
Nature is a common theme in MacDonald’s work – she was a high school art and science teacher for decades – and the work she features in “Leading By Example” reflects this. It’s a drawing of a nest and is titled “Feather Down”.
The name is a pun, because last summer MacDonald was working on his piece on a boat in Block Island when a fluffy white feather swirled around and landed just inside his drawing of a nest.
“It was kind of a magical little moment, even though it sounds very corny,” MacDonald said. “It’s as if the universe approved my drawing.”
The works exhibited at Leading by Example didn’t have to be completed at the association, Touhey said, but they had to be inspired by a Wickford Art Association course. Each piece hangs next to a label with its title, the name of the artist and the name of the class that inspired it.
Touhey said part of the appeal of the exhibition was that it allowed artists to see their works framed and displayed — a particular benefit for members who don’t typically submit their pieces to exhibitions.
“It’s important to take work out of a classroom and into a different context. And when you take the work out of the sketchbook, or take it out, and put it in a frame, put it on a wall, it completely changes it,” Touhey said. “It’s a great sense of accomplishment.”
MacDonald said the show gives audiences the opportunity to see the talent in other members of the community — and to see the potential in themselves.
“Come to the show, talk to the people who are there and gain confidence in drawing. Because I truly believe anyone can draw,” MacDonald said. “Everyone can draw. If you can hold a pencil, you can draw.
Both Kaiser and Touhey said the quality of the work was very high, and Kaiser said she liked that the show showed the progress and growth of WAA artists.
“It’s all about growth, it’s about trying new things, it’s about supporting each other in a classroom environment,” Kaiser said. “It’s really very welcoming, and it was a welcoming sight.”