Brenau University’s sixth annual President’s Summer Art Series celebrates the work of four North Georgia artists with a free public reception Thursday, May 18, from 5:30-7 p.m., to open the annual exhibition. The reception and show, which runs through July 13, will be in the Sellars Gallery at the Simmons Visual Arts Center, 200 Boulevard, on the Gainesville historic campus.
“Each year the works featured are all very different in terms of media and style,” said Brenau Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings. “And yet the artists’ work displayed all interacts in very engaging ways. I see this as reflecting the distinct yet collaborative nature of the incredibly talented artists working in our community.”
Each year since 2012, Brenau President Ed Schrader selects and invites artists from the Gainesville region to participate and display their unique artwork. This year’s series displays the work of Sarah Claussen, Patricia Fabian, Christie Gregory and Lee Anne White.
Sarah Claussen has always been drawn to the water. At age 7, she moved with her family from their home just outside Pittsburgh to Atlanta and from there to Cumming on the banks of Lake Lanier.
“Water is an inspiration for me,” she said. “Even in Pennsylvania, my father would boat along the river there, so we were always on the water.”
After working as a grant writer for the Douglasville, Georgia-based nonprofit Parents Educating Parents and Professionals, Claussen – then in her late 20s – decided to go back to school at the University of North Georgia. There, art professor Chris Dockery introduced her to the encaustic medium, which involves painting with hot wax combined with pigments. Claussen makes her own compounds at home – beeswax and gamma resin mixtures – and uses natural pigments to create colors, preferring calming hues such as turquoise and other shades of blues and greens. Claussen has taught art at Gainesville High School since 2012 and she also is a yoga instructor and enthusiast.
Patricia Fabian while growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey, made mosaics at the kitchen table with ripped-up construction paper. Years later while she was taking a watercolor class to complete her master’s degree at the University of Tulsa, her professor took interest in her work and encouraged her to pursue art. Fabian decided to take private lessons at night before moving briefly to Washington, D.C., where she joined the Virginia Art League and studied with German-born American painter Wolf Kahn. Shortly after, she sold everything she owned and set up a studio in Chinatown.
“I did the starving artist thing,” she said. “I ate rice, bartered rooms with paintings and spent time going up and down the East Coast. But then I met my husband, and we moved to Atlanta – and I loved it.”
Fabian has painted everything from scenes of young tennis players for the United States Tennis Association to horses, cowboys and flea markets in Texas. She was president of the Georgia Art League for two years. She currently teaches at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center.
Christie Gregory was Brenau’s first design director, working for nine years in the Office of Communications & Publications. She retired in 2016 to focus on her painting at Art Colony Georgia on Main Street in Gainesville’s growing midtown area. The Nashville, Tennessee, native graduated from Peabody College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in studio arts. Her early work was included in several juried exhibitions, but she earned a living by drawing pen and ink illustrations for retail catalogs. Gregory relocated in the ’80s to Atlanta where she worked initially designing graphics for package firms. From there she moved on to graphic design and creative direction with top agencies in Atlanta’s booming advertising world. After moving to Gainesville, she spent nine years as Brenau’s top graphic designer until she “retired” in 2016 to return to painting.
“My time on staff at Brenau was the perfect job for me at that stage of my career,” Gregory said. “I had all the creative freedom I needed to help build the image of the quickly growing university.”
Lee Anne White graduated from Brenau Women’s College in 1982, earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism and broadcasting with a minor in commercial art. Her artist mother, Betty Romberg, worked in the admissions office while earning her own degree in studio art a decade after her daughter. After working 15 years in marketing, public relations and graphic design, White became the editor and photographer of Fine Gardening magazine in 1996. She joined Taunton Press as the consulting editor of their gardening book program, producing more than 20 publications. She has written or edited more than 15 books on landscape design. In addition, she contributed photography to each of these books, has exhibited her work in galleries, and she is a photography instructor for the Maine Media Workshops.White’s work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Garden Design, Organic Gardening, Atlanta Homes and Lifestyle and more.
“I love being in gardens and outside because I feel more connected to the earth and the world around me,” White said. “There is also a tremendous sense of healing power in nature, so I would love to see my work in health care environments where other people can enjoy them.”
Although she also has a master’s degree from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at the State University of New York/Buffalo State College, she has maintained a close relationship with her undergraduate alma mater over three decades, including service as a member of the university’s board of trustees. She has spoken about and showcased her work from her various disciplines many times over the years at Brenau.
Selections of work by all of the artists in The President’s Summer Art Series will be on display in the Sellars Gallery of the Simmons Visual Arts Center on Brenau’s historic campus in Gainesville at 200 Boulevard. For more information, please call Rawlings or gallery assistant Allison Lauricella at 770-534-6263 or visit galleries.brenau.edu.