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37th Autumn Group Exhibition Opens at Carlton Gallery Saturday Featuring a Retrospective of Toni Carlton’s Work from the Last 35 Years

Toni Carlton in her studio at Woven Works in the early 80s

By Colby Gable

On October 12th, Carlton Gallery opens its 37th Autumn Group Exhibition featuring “Retrospective – Linking Past to Present through Contemporary Art” by Toni Carlton. This exhibition features an Artists ‘Reception from 2-5pm and new work in paintings, sculpture, pottery and jewelry can be viewed along with greeting some of the standing gallery artists in attendance for this exhibition which is free of charge and continues through November 15th.

Toni Carlton says, “The featured exhibit is my work. I am showing some of my early weavings and basketry I did in the early 80s and moving into other artwork from the 90s with acrylic calligraphic brush paintings, along with drawings I did from live models. It is a retrospective of different works I’ve done over my artistic career”.

A graduate of Appalachian State, Carlton has a degree in Fine Art and Industrial Arts/Technology and continues to feature artists in her gallery’s collection like Warren Dennis and Debbie Arnold who exhibited in Carlton’s original studio called “Woven Works” which opened in 1982. The Gallery started out as a weaving studio but over time grew to represent over 200 local, regional, and national artists highlighting art in all media – paintings, glass, sculpture, wood, clay, wearable art, and jewelry. Carlton says, “I started with my weaving studio because I built a loom and didn’t have room to keep it at my house, so I rented space. In a couple of years, it became a fiber studio and gallery combined, as I added other artists’ work.”

Carlton was born in Boone and grew up on a small family farm. Her dad, Paul, was a carpenter who built houses with his father, Estil. Paul and Estil were also known for the looms they built for Carlton’s grandmother and aunts. Her father and grandfather built looms as a hobby – for fun – for family and neighbors who wanted them. Carlton’s aunt, Ruth Carlton South, studied weaving at Berea College and Penland School of Crafts and taught her mother, Nellie Adaline Carlton, to weave at 53 years of age. Her grandmother, Nellie Carlton, worked in the Watauga Handicraft Shop in Boone, along with her daughter, Lucy Carlton Bentley, where they taught weaving and wove traditional patterns in napkins, placemats, aprons and other items. Carlton’s grandmother often took her to work with her in the summer and their close relationship helped nurture her interest in weaving and art.

At Watauga High School, Carlton focused on art and industrial arts classes. “I think I was the only girl in the industrial arts program,” she said. Her talent in high school won the Senior Art Award for her overall body of work. She entered Appalachian State University after high school.

In her woodworking class at the university, Carlton built a loom from her grandfather’s designs just like the ones used by her grandmother. She also took drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, clay and weaving in the art department. In her weaving classes she would create traditional patterns on looms of her grandmother sometimes adding adding handspun wools, Rocky Mountain goat and buffalo hair, satin fabrics sewn into various shapes with repeating patterns using contemporary techniques.

During the late 1970s, Carlton created her first commissioned piece for P.B. Scott’s Music Hall in Blowing Rock that covered a 7- by 12-foot area. Smoketree Lodge in Foscoe also commissioned her to do weavings for their lobby and restaurant. Later Linville Ridge Country Club commissioned pieces from her.

Toni Carlton’s commissioned piece for PB Scotts Music Hall in the early 1980s.

Carlton was asked to demonstrate her work at Mystery Hill in the early 80’s and she was doing traditional patterns like her Grandmother did, but she made them into a more contemporary art form. She wanted to show that traditional weaving could also be an art form – not just a placemat or napkins or things that are functional. She had help building shadow boxes and frames so her weavings could show as an art form on the wall rather than something useful.

As Carlton was getting her studio up and running, she also became involved in the Blue Mountain Art Gallery project formed by local artists as a fine art co-operative. The co-operative moved into a space known as the Kiln Room in 1987 where she set up her looms on the 2nd floor of the three-story building. She would spend her days at Woven Works and then go across the street to work on her art and looms. After a year in this space, the Blue Mountain project started to fade, so Carlton rented the top two floors of the building and moved her gallery from across the street into the much larger space. The building became known as Creekside, and she changed her gallery’s name from Woven Works to Carlton Gallery. In 2006 the gallery had more than 4,000 square feet displaying art from over 300 artists.

Toni Carlton outside of her gallery at Creekside in 2006.

Carlton’s art evolved over the years as well, expanding into different areas. “I made a shift from weaving to basketry in the 80s and did sculptural basketry and huge wall hangings that were more of an art form than a functional piece. And I did that for quite a few years, basketry and weaving combined,” said Carlton. “In the early 90’s I made a big shift in my life and my art shifted back to drawing and painting. At that time I started doing a series called “Spirit of the Heart.” It was mixed media with oil sticks, using an acrylic or ink wash technique on handmade paper that still gave me the texture I had with the weavings but was more drawings and painting that came from the heart. This art was showing that our hearts are always connected, whether you’re leaving or coming together. I did that for quite a few years in the 90s. For this exhibit I’m bringing back that type of work to show that we all are connected through our hearts.”

Carlton’s work has evolved into a broad range of materials and genres such as: landscape tapestries, large sculptural 3-D basketry, traditional patterns woven with linen to create fine art, drawing, and painting oils. These paintings, or combinations of paintings and woven fibers, usually center around incorporating themes of nature, representations of spirituality, and “multicultural images to express the ‘oneness’ of all.” Some of these images of multiculturalism can be attributed to inspiration from some of the trips she has taken abroad to countries such as India, Peru, Mexico, Belize, and all over Europe. She has reflected about her art in the past saying, “My work is a series of mixed media paintings and surface manipulation. I incorporate metaphors from my personal life experiences, my love of dance, music, and photographic images I have taken during travels, along with multicultural collections to represent out universal connection to all relations”.

Carlton’s most recent art incorporates fine handwoven fibers woven as a meditation or prayer into mixed media paintings reconnecting with her fiber background and her Appalachian heritage in the mountains of North Carolina. She begins with writing in ink or graphite on the canvas in English to create elegant flowing abstract compositions which can be seen through her hand-woven fiber, as well as multicultural images to express the “Oneness” of all. Her exceptional calligraphy work afforded an invitation to several international exhibitions.

For Carlton, this impact is seen specifically in her work “Art Blessings, where she combined calligraphic and Asian symbols through layers of collage, painting, and transfer images as she revisited her journey as an artist in the past, saying “It has been almost 20 years since I used weaving as an art form so to actually weave each thread as a prayer knowing it will be an integral part of a larger mixed media painting on canvas is coming full circle to connect me to my heritage.”

In May of 2008 Carlton Gallery once again moved across the road into the former Antonaccio Fine Art Building. It is beautiful space of approximately 5,000 square feet for exhibiting the fine art and upscale handmade crafts by the many local, regional and national artisans the gallery represents. From blown glass, exceptional pottery, designer jewelry, sculpture, wood, wearable fiber to original paintings in oil, watercolor, acrylic and mixed media, Toni Carlton selects from traditional to contemporary for a spirited collection at Carlton Gallery. 

Entrance to Carlton Gallery at 10360 NC Highway 105 South in the Grandfather Mountain community.


Featured Artists at Carlton Gallery for the 37th Autumn Group Exhibition

New paintings by Egidio Antonaccio display his unique interpretation of local landscapes in which he uses brushes for traditional work and palette knives for his more contemporary paintings. 

Eddie Kent Tallent’s landscape paintings are rendered to reveal his deep affinity for locations and objects which embody a sense of mystery and solitude. He states, “My paintings are intended to transcend superficial or facile depictions of nature and allow the viewer to find a state of serenity.”

The landscape paintings of Allison Chambers reveal her ability to experiment with color by switching from a full to a limited palette. Her goal is to create an abstracted interpretation of life in her paintings.

New to the gallery, Carol Bodiford paints the landscape using a technique which she calls “luminise” in which light is the most expressive feature and physical objects are softened and etherealized in a glowing haze. 

Andrew Braitman renders his landscapes in abstract using his masterful color palette along with Kate Worm and Marion Cloaninger’s imaginative paintings and figurative work.

The Plein Air landscapes of Linda Apriletti and Holly Glasscock are softly rendered with a limited color palette which enhances the interpretation of local landscapes.

Mary-Ann Prack creates ceramic figure sculptures in her distinctive style. Each sculpture is elegant, organic and reveals its own presence, personality and energy when viewed in person.

Laura Hughes’ contemporary horse paintings make the 37th Autumn Group Exhibition energetic and engaging.

The gallery welcomes four more new artists. Linda Sacra creates blown glass beads for her exclusive designs in necklaces, pendants and earrings while Felipe Marcel’s stainless-steel designs are kinetic and Asian in style for outdoor gardens. Chandra Cerchone-Peltier’s sculpture adds a whimsical, magical flair with her Antlers de Anima Series – Deer Woman of sculpted polymer clay with all hand -made features and accessories.

Carlton Gallery is located 10 miles south of Boone of Hwy 105 South in the Grandfather Mountain community. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Examples of Toni’s artwork from the 80s through today, some of which will be at the exhibition:

Natural Vines – Basketry – Mid 1980s
Sculptural Wall Hanging – early 1980’s
Natural Vines – Basketry – Mid 1980s – 48 inches tall
Landscape Tapestry Commission- Nine feet tall – late 1980s
Figure Drawing from the early 1990s
Fine Traditional Weaving with Contemporary techniques – 1980s
Flowing Through the Threads of Our Lives – Spirit of Peace – #1 48×48 – 2015
Life Dance #2 from 2005
Spirit of the Heart series – Hosannah – Mixed Media – from the early 1990s
When the Horses Come #1 – All will be Connected – from 2017
Toni Carlton with her Art – Healing – White Buffalo Returns – a piece sent to Naples, Italy for International Calligraphy Exhibition in 2013
Mother of the Heart from 2017
One of seven of a series called “Finding Your Way Back Home Through Love” 2019.