Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Catching dragonflies

18-year-old emerging artist part of the Carnegie’s public art trail
By Patrice Stewart, Staff Writer, The Decatur Daily

Hanging out with insects at Cook’s Natural Science Museum doesn’t bother Whitley Fleming.

As long as she has her drawing equipment, she’s OK to sit for hours with the ants, beetles and spiders.

Her familiarity with dragonflies and other insects made it natural for the budding artist to paint two critters for this summer’s Dance of the Dragonflies while also building her own portfolio.

She saw the Carnegie Visual Arts Center’s 2010 public art trail as a chance to contribute pretty, attention-getting items to Decatur while also getting experience with a different category of art.

The 18-year-old, who has drawn and painted from a young age, hopes to have a career as a graphic designer. Look for her illustrations in a bug book in the future.

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“My mom works at the Cook’s museum in Decatur, so I was able to go by there and see the different bugs,” said Fleming, the daughter of Darron and Allison Fleming of Trinity.

“Since I like to draw, it’s a nice place for me to go and sit and draw the different insects. They’re not alive or moving, so it’s easier to get your proportions right while seeing them close up,” she said.

A recent graduate of Master’s Hand home-school program, she completed a summer art appreciation course at Calhoun Community College. She has been awarded a fine arts scholarship to Calhoun for 2010-11.

Fleming did not participate in the Carnegie’s “Arts Aflutter” butterfly trail last summer, but she decided to get involved in the Dance of the Dragonflies trail after learning about it last winter through the Carnegie’s Facebook page.

Area artists were asked to submit drawings of their ideas. Dragonfly sponsors could chose from the samples, and the Carnegie committee matched some up.

“They were trying to keep it geared toward the city of Decatur and things we associated with Decatur, so I thought about the Cook’s Museum and the Alabama Jubilee balloon festival,” Fleming said.

She submitted two designs, and both were chosen. They can be viewed on Old Decatur streets until the Dragonfly Ball on Aug. 14, when the painted metal beauties will be auctioned or go to their sponsors.

“Nature’s Wonder” is the name Fleming gave her dragonfly painted in green and yellow with insects like ants, grasshoppers and other varmints. The sponsor is the Decatur-Morgan County Hospitality Association Inc., and this piece is at 511 Oak St. N.E.

“I was thinking of the different insects that I remembered seeing in this area when I was little,” she said. “There’s a firefly on there like those that I remember catching around here, and I added some butterflies, too.”

“The Sky’s the Limit,” Fleming’s other dragonfly, features clouds and hot-air balloons. It was chosen to represent the Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau and stands in Founders Park at Bank and Church streets.

One of the best parts was painting her dragonflies in a warehouse where many experienced artists were working.

“It was neat to meet the other artists, learn from them and see that they have jobs around here, too,” said Fleming. “Art is my passion, and I’ll be excited to see what it opens up.”

Insects are not her only topics, however.

She entered a drawing of an octopus in last year’s “Embracing Art” exhibit of area art at the Carnegie and also earned honorable mention the past two years in the Junior Duck Stamp art competition at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge.

As a home-schooler, her art teacher was Michelle Wilson of Hartselle. Last fall, Fleming’s mixed-media work, titled “Memoirs,” was the only local piece chosen to be displayed with about 60 from around the state at an exhibit at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

Vote for your favorite

Have you viewed all the art on the Dance of the Dragonflies trail and voted for your favorite online?

You only have another week and a half, so it’s time to get out and see this second annual display of public art sponsored by the Carnegie Visual Arts Center and many companies, agencies and individuals.

Fifty-nine painted metal dragonflies are on display, featuring everything from area attractions, flowers, river life and the Delta IV rocket to memories of individuals.

Some dragonflies even capture the “Coffee and Camaraderie” of the morning coffee club at the City Café and Alabama football’s bragging rights on a “Braggin’ Fly.”

There are too many to list here, but they can be seen on the arts center’s trail website, www.carnegieartstrail.org. Trail brochures can be downloaded from the website or picked up at the Carnegie. And if you walk or ride along the trail, you may also spot some butterflies from the 2009 public art project that are now in permanent locations chosen by sponsors.

Dragonfly Ball

The public art trail will officially end with the Dragonfly Ball on Aug. 14, when large and small dragonflies will be auctioned.

The event, planned at Burningtree Country Club from 7 to 10 p.m., will include music by The Valley Cats dance band, heavy hors d’oeuvres, complimentary signature drinks and cash bar. Tickets to this Carnegie fundraiser must be purchased by Friday at $75 per person. Call 341-0562 for information.

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