For over twenty years, North Carolina-based artist Ginger S. Huebner has been using the mediums of collage and chalk pastel to transform life moments into works of fine art. Huebner’s work is inspired by the life journeys that unfold before all of us. For Huebner, life is full of stories and each fragment, each experience, offers an opportunity to capture artistically what often transcends expression in mere words. Her work embodies people’s hearts, their dreams, their passions in life, and the moments and individuals that define and refine them. Ginger sees these collaborations, woven with her individual works, as small attempts to change the world through visual translations of love, hope and peace; and the many struggles in between. She lives in Asheville with her husband Scott and two children, Mia and Felix.
With a Bachelor of Architecture and a Masters in Teaching Visual Art, Ginger’s teaching experience spans a variety of disciplines. A certified K-12 Visual Art instructor and a member of the North Carolina Arts Council Teaching Artist Directory, Ginger has worked with students of diverse backgrounds using a collaborative approach, inclusive to all. She founded Roots + Wings School of Art and Design in Asheville, NC to provide unique visual art education to all people, as well as connect the strong local artist community with the rest of Asheville and surrounding regions through classes and workshops. The school provides a variety of programming, including a visual arts preschool, after school community design lab programs, weekly art + design classes, custom private art sessions, and MORE – for people of all ages and abilities.
An interview with Ginger Huebner:
When and how did you start developing an interest in art?
I have always loved doing artistic activities. I remember having Trapper Keeper when I was younger (8 years old, I think?), that was filled with drawings, copies of pictures, things I would collect, etc… I spent a lot of time drawing and painting things I saw. It wasn’t until college that my creative process really blossomed, as I began to understand composition and was encouraged to move beyond just what I saw toward what I could create.
You live and work in Asheville, North Carolina. Can you give us an overview of Asheville’s art scene and your involvement in it?
Yes, I relocated to Asheville four years ago from Seattle. There is an amazing diversity of local artists and artisans scattered all around the Western North Carolina region. Asheville specifically has a highly concentrated district, the River Arts District (RAD), which is a series of 15-20 former textile and industrial buildings, now filled with art studios with working artists. I had a studio in the RAD from 2007 to 2013 that I shared with talented oil painter, Ralston Fox Smith. Now my studio is housed inside the Roots + Wings Creative Campus, in Asheville's Oakley neighborhood.
In addition to my own studio work, I founded Roots + Wings School of Art and Design in 2009. Through many programs, myself and our amazing teaching artists nurture and encourage the natural creativity within students of all ages through innovative design, dynamic art education and community collaboration. Starting with pre-school through high school and beyond, students at Roots + Wings School of Art and Design learn the principles of design and art expression while applying innovative and creative problem-solving skills to real-life situations within their communities.
We have read about how you strive to represent events and emotions through your artwork. In terms of client commissions, what kind of interaction do you have with the clients?
When I am asked to do a commission, I work very closely with my client through the entire process. First, we begin with a conversation to explore their ideas for the piece. I ask for descriptive words, colors, dates, imagery that might be significant, places / maps, etc… Then I spend time creating a preliminary sketch with colored pencil and pen that my client can comment on. I then create the layout of the piece with actual imagery, text, etc… and send a photo of this to my client. Again, they are welcome to comment on changes they might like to see, or present new ideas that have been sparked by the process. Finally, I go ahead and create the final work. It is always a fulfilling and unique experience. For most artists, this may seem an unorthodox approach, but my work has always been about connections.
You graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in architecture. How has your education led you in the direction of the work you’re doing today? To what extent has it assisted you in your artistic career?
My time at Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture+Design was crucial to my development as an artist. I credit my years there with learning how to think creatively, learning how to truly see things differently, and developing confidence in my creative talents. Specifically, the combination of my second year professor Mark Blizzard’s spontaneous gift of a set of chalk pastels along with learning from his inspiring teaching methods (and his own beautifully crafted drawings) sent me down a path that has led me where I am today. As my third, fourth and fifth years unfolded, my own ‘drawings’ became another language for expressing not only my studio projects, but translating other elements of my life. I don’t think I have ever really verbalized this until now, but in many ways, my early professional career as an architect (listening to clients ideas, shaping them into a uniquely personal work of “art”, letting them be an integral part of the creative process) has also shaped my artwork.
Could you briefly touch upon why you chose encaustic medium to work with? What is the process you go through for this type of work? How do you think this enhances your work in ways that other methods could not?
As my work has evolved, I have experimented with new ways to incorporate my collage elements. Encaustic provides a way to layer the collage elements with translucency as well as be a tactile protector of the piece. The process involves melting the medium, applying it with a brush, then re-heating it with a heat gun. You can infinitely adjust the texture and thickness of the encaustic medium. Since my work of collage and pastel is largely 2-dimensional, the addition of the encaustic medium adds dimension to the work that I could not otherwise achieve, as well as providing opportunities for carving into or adding texture.
Throughout your years as a student and artist, did you have any mentors who assisted or influenced your work?
As I mentioned above, Professor Mark Blizzard was certainly one of my first mentors. The artwork he was creating at the time directly influenced my own experimentation. Also, I had the pleasure and privilege to meet and spend a weekend with Sambo Mockbee between my second and third years of school. He greatly influenced me on an emotional and ‘bigger vision’ level, which I will always carry with me. The final two years in school at Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Architecture Consortium, Ron Kagawa and Susan Piedmont-Palladino were both elemental in moving my work beyond the pure emotional toward work with greater depth and clarity. Artists Romare Bearden and Joseph Cornell are meaningful inspirations.
It seems that a lot of your work alludes to reflections on the environment and the natural world. Many people have sensed an environmental tone to your pieces. Can you give us any insight?
I have always had a great appreciation for whatever environment surrounds me. The natural world is a gift worth contemplating. I see the subtle and grand moments of life through the lens of the natural world and the human body. My work is a layering of my life story, my education as an architect, the joys and pains of the creative process, the connections to others and a reverence for the natural world.