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Carroll Community College art show explores narrative in the natural world

Chistine Mercer-Vernon's works will be displayed in "when words aren't enough" at Carroll Community College, opening Feb. 13.
Chistine Mercer-Vernon's works will be displayed in "when words aren't enough" at Carroll Community College, opening Feb. 13. (Courtesy Photo / Christine Mercer-Vernon)

The Scott Center gallery at Carroll Community College will soon be filled with the shapes of petals and wishbones, tiny tree seedlings and swirling ribbons when the show “when words aren’t enough,” with paintings by Christine Mercer-Vernon, opens Feb 13.

As Mercer-Vernon worked on the paintings over the last year, part of her research for the paintings was a series of informal interviews with her loved ones. She asked them where they find hope and meaning in objects from the natural world. She found that people’s stories are extremely personal and shaped by family tradition or individual memory.

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For one, finding a perfectly preserved feather reminded them of a lost loved one. But for others, feathers held different meanings. She researched some of the traditional symbolism of natural objects, but found that the deep and very personal meanings were stronger.

“It has been remarkable how joyful this group of paintings has been,” Mercer-Vernon said.

Her style of painting is narrative, telling story through elements like gesture, color and composition.

The title of the show, “when words aren’t enough,” comes back to her belief that paintings can tap into emotions or experiences that don’t translate directly to text.

“That’s something I very much tried to convey in the show, that these are little stories. They’re put in a visual context that is much easier to recall than a series of words," she said.

She has been “amazed” over the years as a painter to hear the ways that her works take on meaning in another person’s eyes.

“Everyone has a different reason for each painting resonating with them,” she said. “The stories people share always move me.”

She said she is so excited and grateful to be able to share the series of paintings with others and for the conversations it has opened up.

“I think it’s so hard for people to connect. And when people struggle with connection, it makes it so much harder for us to deal with our own emotions and what we’re feeling. This body of work really is very personal to the viewer and their journey, and so it really elicited some responses that I don’t think I’ve even prepared myself for,” she said.

Christine Mercer-Vernon's paintings will be shown at Carroll Community College between Feb. 13 and April 4.
Christine Mercer-Vernon's paintings will be shown at Carroll Community College between Feb. 13 and April 4. (Christine Mercer-Vernon/Courtesy Photo / Christine Mercer-Vernon)

Curator Jessi Hardesty said of the show, “Pennsylvania-based artist Christine Mercer-Vernon has spent the last year exploring humanity’s deep connection to the natural world. Her work is soft and approachable, hopeful and quiet. Combining minimalism, storytelling, and movement to present each narrative, Mercer-Vernon is able to provide a gentle entry point unique to each viewer that allows them to examine their own desire for inspiration and hidden meaning.”

Mercer-Vernon is a self-taught artist and a member of the American Women Artists non-profit organization. Her work has shown in galleries across the central east coast.

The opening reception, which runs 4-7 p.m. Feb. 13, is free and open to the public. There will be snacks and beverages. The exhibition is on view until April 4. The gallery is open during normal college hours.

You can find more of Mercer-Vernon’s work at mercer-vernon.com and on Instagram at @christinemv_painter.

If you go

What: Opening reception for “when words are not enough”

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Wjen: Thursday, Feb. 13, 4-7 p.m.

Where: Gallery in the Scott Center of Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster

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