By Joe Johnson
Brian Hester, born and raised in Boone and currently teaching art in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School system, will be presenting his artwork in the High Country for the first time at Mountain Blue Gallery in Banner Elk on April 13 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Hester’s art has been featured in galleries around the Charlotte area in the past; some of his works are currently displayed in the NoDa Brewery in Charlotte as well as the Appalachian Mountain Brewery in Boone.
Hester channels his life experiences through his art, inserting snapshots of his own life into situations you wouldn’t normally expect. For Hester, these life snapshots consist of scenes gathered from his journeys in the High Country, which often means activities conducted in the outdoors such as fly-fishing. Hester’s gallery will include pieces created using various mediums such as acrylic on canvas, watercolors, and sculptures featuring subject matter that pushes the line between real and surreal. “I guess I would call my work ‘Contemporary Pseudo-Realism,’” said Hester, “I like to freeze time so that I can hold that moment. It’s like when you’re fishing, if you’re not present, if you’re not paying attention to the fight, it can be gone in an instant. I try to pay attention to that stuff; I try to be aware, I try to be present. I really am looking at the fights; I’m looking at all those things, all those variables that come together and make the piece original. I also try to take the viewer and put the viewer in a place that they wouldn’t normally ever go. I want to take the viewer and shove them under the river water so they can look up at the belly of a trout. I want to stand underneath the Linn Cove Viaduct and watch these monster rainbows swim across the Blue Ridge and look at the fly that’s sitting in the skyline on the clouds that they’re actually getting ready to feed on. I try to make somebody believe it.”
Hester draws from his experiences in and around the water while growing up in Boone and adventuring in the High Country when he creates works of art. “I get tickled every time somebody talks about water because I spent my life in the water swimming,” said Hester, “My mom wouldn’t let me go out to fish by myself, if it was Winkler’s Creek or Howard’s Creek or Watauga River, any of that, until she felt comfortable about my ability to not die in the water. So, I became a pretty decent swimmer, and as soon as that happened she was like, ‘Okay, go!’ I actually had an opportunity to swim in college at UNC Charlotte, which was a blessing. I did a lot of thinking when I was staring at the bottom of the pool on a black line, you know? All I could think about was wanting to be in some different water. Moreover, I would love to be standing in the water and have it running underneath my knees!”
Hester continues to yearn for the running waters of the High Country to this day, making trips whenever he can to fly-fish and spend time in the waters around Boone. He felt it was only natural he should hold his first art gallery in Banner Elk. “Characteristically, it’s a great fit on multiple levels,” said Hester, “Page Smoak, the owner of Mountain Blue Gallery, has been phenomenal in supporting me. There are a lot of local guys, at least in North Carolina, particularly that live in Charlotte, that are doing a lot of angling paintings and sculpting. Page obviously sees something in my work, which I’m grateful for; it’s just a great marriage, in terms of being able to come home and be able to show off what a little hillbilly redneck boy has been able to accomplish! You know, it’s my stomping grounds, and also the High Country is phenomenal for producing great water for fly-fishing, so that’s another part of the marriage.”
Hester is appreciative for the support he has received from his family and the Mountain Blue Gallery in Banner Elk for hosting his upcoming gallery in April. “Again, I’d like to thank Page Smoak for giving me a chance to show off my stuff,” said Hester, “I’m blessed that I get to come home to the High Country to show off what I can do. I’d like to give a shout out to my parents for actually cultivating the opportunity and also a shout out to my wife who is rock-solid and the brains behind what I do; she’s been a very, very good sounding board for how I approach what I’m doing and to what degree I’m doing it, I wouldn’t be here without her!”
Hester is eager to showcase his artistic talents to the High Country and invites anyone who is interested to attend his art gallery on April 13 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. inside the Mountain Blue Gallery in Banner Elk. “I would love for everybody in Boone, West Jefferson, Avery County, everybody that’s around the High Country to come take a look and see what my capabilities are,” said Hester, “I don’t want to be bottlenecked as just an angling painter; I like that title, but my capabilities allow me to do a lot of other stuff. I would say 90% of my work is built on inversion and substitution; a lot of times you might like to have a two-finger whiskey after a long day on the river. Why couldn’t you put a brown trout inside that whiskey?”