The artist spotlight of the Garrett County Arts Council this month is shining on two local artists and a special exhibit that combines their work. Glass artist Julie Turrentine and nature photographer Caroline Blizzard present their artistic vision of the National Audubon Society’s climate report “Survival by Degrees: 389 Birds on the Brink”. Using glass, photography, and information technology, this exhibit, titled “For the Love of Birds,” highlights projected changes in Garrett County’s bird populations because of climate change and other factors.
The exhibit is housed in a newly refurbished space in the heart of the Oakland Arts & Entertainment District. The Arts Council and the district have been collaborating with the town of Oakland and the Sincell-McEwen families to repurpose the former press room area where The Republican Newspaper was published for more than 100 years. The large space is now clean, repainted, and ADA accessible. This new exhibit and multi-use arts space is being utilized by the Arts Council as an extension of the established $MART ART: Shared Workspace.
“We are so pleased to be able showcase the exquisite work of both Caroline Blizzard and Julie Turrentine as our first visual arts exhibit in our new space,” said Kathy Beachler, executive director of the Garrett County Arts Council. “Their exhibition both beautiful and relevant, and we are proud to host it.”
Turrentine has been working with glass for decades and operates the Snowbird Creations Studio in Sky Valley. There she brings her inspirations to fruition using the difficult Pâte de Verre technique, which is a way to “paint” with glass. Combining powdered glass with a wet medium called Klyre Fire, Julie creates a kind of sludge which can then be applied, maneuvered, and blended on her “canvass,” which is the bird cut on clear glass.
Having drawn the bird she is going to create, Julie looks at the sketch to shape the subject using tools, her hands, and, in the end, after it is fired in a kiln for 17 hours, a band saw. She files off edges and perfects tiny details, such as the shape of the beak. One of the last touches is the painted-on eye, which she said is a vitally important dot than can “make or break” the bird at the very end of a long process.
Her work has been displayed at The Gallery Shop in Oakland, in Davis, WV, galleries, and at her co-artist’s studio, the Four Storm Gallery near Swallow Falls. Her artistic life has not been restricted to the fused glass realm. Julie is a professional musician and is retired from a lengthy military career as a featured vocalist in the Singing Sergeants of the United States Air Force Band. She is an accomplished pianist as well. Her husband, Moe Turrentine, is a retired band director. The two of them have engaged in music locally, with Moe formerly serving as the director of the Garrett Community Band and Julie directing the Garrett Choral Society, both for several years. They continue to play and sing with the local groups and are members of the choir of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Oakland.
Caroline Blizzard is a retired ranger of the Maryland State Park Service, having spent her career promoting the natural surroundings of the mountaintop, teaching thousands of residents and visitors to appreciate and care for the flora and fauna. From 2004 until her retirement early this year, she was a fixture at Deep Creek Lake State Park, where she managed the Discovery Center and the extensive aviary. There numerous large birds of prey are cared for following injuries that keep them from returning to the wild. Caroline worked for many years to help establish Sang Run State Park, located on the grounds of the historic 19th century Friend homestead known as Friend’s Delight.
Blizzard’s passion for wildlife is nearly boundless, but she is dedicated to small flying creatures in particular. In addition to birds of all species, her care and concern extends to the preservation of the monarch butterfly. Season after season, she collaborated with local school children to collect the caterpillars, keep them in a safe area with plenty of milkweed to create their signature chrysalises, watch them hatch, and then tag the orange and black butterflies before they journeyed all the way to Mexico. She traveled to that destination in 2011 to send pictures and information back home to the kids by way of live internet links. The children tagged an average of 800+ butterflies annually.
Caroline’s professional photography is chiefly focused on her passion — the outdoors. Her subjects are often birds of all types, as well as bears, foxes, and other creatures of the wild, or waterways and walkways in forests and glens. She owns and operates Hawks Flight Studio, and, with Becky Wilson, runs the Four Storm Art Gallery, where her parents and sister are featured artists. She has been a featured photography exhibitor at numerous area festivals and shows, including Garrett County Arts Council’s SEYMOUR Fine Arts Exhibit, Art in the Park, the former GCAC Heritage Craft Show, and many more.
Both Julie and Caroline are avid bird watchers. They have each traveled nationally and internationally to spot birds of many a feather, constantly striving to add to their “bird life lists.” They are deeply concerned about the effects of climate change and the potential loss of habitat for local birds and other wildlife.
“Nothing puts an instant smile on my face faster than seeing birds, even a crow,” Julie said. “The possibility of losing any of our local species due to climate change is real and devastating. This exhibition is our way of making folks aware of the reality of what is happening now — not tomorrow, but now. And of course, the final question is what can you do regarding this dilemma.”
The glass work of Julie and the stunning photography of Caroline complement one another in the exhibit, which opened on Nov. 20 and will run through Dec. 31. at The Gallery Shop’s $MART Art Shared Workspace, located at 108 South Second Street in Oakland.
“It has been exciting to collaborate with Julie on this project,” Caroline said. “Our shared love of birds and the environment, plus our concern about climate change, have created a true focus for us to delve into. Watching her glass become part of my photography and vice versa has been a real labor of love.”
By Mary McEwen of The Garrett County Arts Council