Ramsey Library Exhibits

Studies for "A Thorn of Memory"

A Ramsey Library exhibit about Thomas Wolfe

[picture: Angel] Watercolor studies by Connie Bostic for "A Thorn of Memory," an installation for the Thomas Wolfe Visitor's Center were displayed in Ramsey Library during October 1996.

About the artist

Connie Bostic is a UNCA alumna, Fairview resident, and mother of five. She earned her B.A. from UNCA and her M.A. from Western Carolina University.

Connie Bostic on "A Thorn of Memory"

The simple, direct little water colors in this exhibition were created as background or research material for "A Thorn of Memory," a work which will be installed in the new visitor's center of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. I created "A Thorn of Memory" as a commission from the State of North Carolina's now defunct percent-for-art program. This program provided that one half of one percent of the cost of a state building be set aside for a work of art by a North Carolina artist.

My work for the visitor's center consists of 144 wooden panels, 11" by 16." These works took two years to complete, at a cost of $2,324.00. The images are, in many cases abstract, and in all cases non-specific. The objects depicted here are from the collection in the Wolfe House, and the tombstones are from W.O. Wolfe's stonecutter's shop. I owe sincere thanks to Steve Hill and his remarkable and dedicated staff at the Thomas Wolfe memorial who made this project such a joy.

[Picture: Eliza's Rocking Chair] The opportunity to create this work has been extremely important to me. At the age of fourteen and a half, I stumbled across Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel in the Spindale Public Library. It changed my life. In 1950, in Spindale, North Carolina, there was a certain lack when it came to the arts. In the up-and-coming next town of Forest City there was a lady painter. She produced the pictures on the front of the Baptist Sunday School cards. If atmospheric conditions were right, it was sometimes possible to pick up a program of classical music or jazz on WMIT FM at Mt. Mitchell. The place, in short, was not exactly a cultural Mecca.

Finding Wolfe changed everything for me. I memorized pages and tortured every one around me with quotations. Any young man unfortunate enough to ask me for a Sunday afternoon date found himself negotiating the treacherous curves of Highway 74 on his way to a decrepit old house in Asheville where some writer used to live.

I was told when I went to college that I would out-grow Wolfe. I never have. His exuberance, his depths of despair, and his exultant expressions of joy have never lost their ability to move me. The only change in my perception of Wolfe over the years is that now I see more of his humor.

The opportunity to interact with the place and with the objects of his life has been a great privilege to me. I began the project by reading the novels again and then reading the biographies. There was a serious distraction involving the relationship of Wolfe and Aline Bernstein, the generous and brilliant muse whose support made so many things possible for Wolfe. A visit to the Lincoln Center library to go through boxes of her stage and costume designs yielded some poignant materials for "A Thorn of Memory."

The thing I have tried hardest to do with the installation for the Thomas Wolfe Visitor's Center is to do what Wolfe did best...to convey a true sense of time and place. Wolfe's words engage all the senses. When he describes his mother's kitchen, the scent of peach cobbler wafts through the room and the reader's mouth starts to water! If a viewer can find some of that magic in a painting, then my effort has been a success.

[Picture: Plate and cutlery]
Plate and cutlery from Thomas Wolfe's New York apartment

For more information about Thomas Wolfe
Visit the Thomas Clayton Wolfe Web site by Sharon Connolly at UNC-Wilmington.

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