MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. - You might call him a Reynolds-sance man.
He is Jason Reynolds of Gastonia. A native of the charming rural community of Crouse, just outside Lincolnton, Reynolds really is a Renaissance man. A triple-threat artist, he writes poetry; he plays the guitar and the bass; and he draws and paints.
And paints and paints. Reynolds is a profoundly prolific painter, and he told The Herald all about it at Friday’s art crawl in Mount Holly at the new Arts on the Greenway, where he and other artists have studios, located in the heart of downtown Mount Holly. Situated in the erstwhile Massey Industries building at 500 E. Central Ave., right across from Mount Holly City Hall, the 10,000-square-foot site is the new home of the Gaston County Art Guild. In remarkably good shape to be 74 years old, the building boasts ample space for exhibitions, art lessons, seminars and a whole lot more, as Reynolds and wife Jane explained.
Tall, goateed, bespectacled and possessed of a dark képi atop his greying, modified French crewcut, Mr. Reynolds, 40, looks every inch the bohemian artist you might find on Paris’s famed Left Bank. The son of Freda Elmore Reynolds and Martin Reynolds of Lincoln County and brother of Cullowhee-based schoolteacher Carrie Reynolds, he and his wife, married since 2012, are both artists. Both also work for CVS: he as the operations manager for the Belmont location and she as the shift supervisor at its Court Drive counterpart in Gastonia. The couple has a rescued cat named T.C.
Mr. Reynolds is a 2008 graduate of Gaston College, where he earned an associate’s degree in fine art. For him, art is life, and life is art.
“I do something artistic every day,” he said, adding that art has consumed his life since he took up drawing and painting as a child, back in the 1980’s.
And as you might expect of a free-spirited artist, full of joie de vivre, Reynolds isn’t known for a fondness for wearing neckties. After a long shift at CVS (“I don’t know what sleep is!” he quips), he likes nothing better than to ditch the tie and head for his studio, which is crammed with enormous paintings. Among them are meticulously executed portraits in oil and acrylic of actors, such as Australian movie star Chris Hemsworth of Thor fame; English television stars Tom Baker and Christopher Eccleston, both known for their portrayals of the titular character in the BBC’s long-running “Dr. Who” series; and legendary German horror actor Max Schreck of the silent classic, Nosferatu.
Keeping company with these striking paintings are colorful landscapes, such as an untitled rendering of a barn at night. A purplish sunset dominates the background, and light pours out of the barn’s immense doors. What’s inside? Is it a hoedown? Is a foal being born? The painting draws the viewer in, stirring wonder and speculation.
Yet another work is “Soledad,” a portrait of a young Hispanic woman, from 2008. It shows perhaps what are ultimately the Byzantine influences of Mexican painter Diego Rivera or Greco-Spanish master El Greco, both known for their depictions of colorful, elongated figures. Reynolds himself cites Rembrandt, Caravaggio and even such popular comic book artists as Todd McFarlane (“Spider-Man”) amongst his influences.
Mrs. Reynolds, herself known for her paper sculptures, jewelry, short stories and striking black-and-white photography, is perhaps her husband’s biggest fan.
“I think it’s fabulous,” she observed of his work, adding the critique that “he’s non-traditional.”
“I like to take traditional painting techniques and update them,” her husband explained.
An artist’s life
Mr. Reynolds’s works have been seen in some 30 different exhibitions in about as many years. Four of his paintings are on display at the Catawba Coffee Company in downtown Mount Holly.
This remarkable artist is in the midst of a prolific career indeed, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
Amongst others, the Reynoldses are joined on the guild’s board of directors by fellow artists Dottie Scher and Stephanie McLaughlin. Scher is known for her work in fiber art and crochet. And the self-taught McLaughlin, a Flagstaff native who now resides in Gastonia, is known for landscapes of her beloved Arizona and for portraits of people engaged in daily activities. One of her latter such paintings features an old Frenchman with his bicycle.
Scher said she and her fellow artists want Arts on the Greenway to be known as a multi-cultural place for all ages.
“We want to learn from each other,” she said. “We want it to be very open.”
“We’re so excited,” McLaughlin added.
Reynolds offered encouragement to those wanting to pursue painting or other artistic efforts.
“Persevere,” he said. “If you have a source of inspiration, and it’s something you want to do, just keep at it. For me, it’s a form of catharsis. I do this not because it’s something I like to do. It’s something I have to do.”
To learn more about other artists and activities, be sure to check out the Website at www.gastoncountyartguild.com.
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