“For a viewer to experience a connection with one of my pieces is the ultimate compliment,” artist Renee Matthews said.
The Gastonia resident recently won two awards this fall in the annual Paul C. Rhyne Art Competition at the Lincoln Cultural Center.
Sponsored by the Arts Council of Lincoln County, the competition was named in honor of ACLC supporter and Lincolnton native Paul C. Rhyne, according to the organization’s website.
Matthews specifically received awards this year for Best in Show for her ceramic piece “Pele’s Fury” and First Place for her oil/canvas piece “On the River.”
The Cultural Center is where the seasoned artist first began exhibiting in 2004, she said.
A year later, she secured an award for her oil painting “Blazing Spirit” and won her second Rhyne Competition honor in 2010.
However, Matthews has experience in a number of art forms including drawing, tole painting, sewing and quilting and has a number of additional art awards to her name from various area contests over the years at the Gaston County Library and Schiele Museum, among other locations.
“All my life I have created art in one form or another,” she said.
“The act of creating is the most self-satisfying thing a person can do.”
It wasn’t until 2002 that she became more serious about painting and opted to further her skills by enrolling in a number of courses at Gaston College.
She most enjoys using her talent to both satisfy her passion and express herself to others.
“One can study any piece of art and know the artist created it using all emotions a person processes,” Matthews said.
It was through time spent with her artistic father as a child that inspired her current interests and opened her eyes to the art field.
Although Matthews maintained a high-energy nature in her younger years, her father still used her as his subject for portrait paintings.
“As a child, it was very difficult to sit still,” she said. “Sometimes it seemed like hours, but I was always a willing subject.”
While her father served as her biggest influence, Matthews noted, her sister was the one who pushed her to pursue painting.
Unfortunately, both family members have since passed, her father never witnessing one of her paintings or ceramics.
“I miss them dearly,” she said.
While Matthews once filled a studio spot alongside other local artists inside Gastonia’s Arts on Main, she eventually gave up the space, allowing the facility to expand its gift shop.
She will soon join the Cultural Center, she said, and display her work at the Lincolnton art center.
Matthews additionally maintains memberships to the Gaston County Art Guild and Southern Art Society in Kings Mountain. Both guilds, she said, give a percentage of each members’ art sales to area nonprofits.
She encouraged amateur artists to always “keep an open mind,” gaining knowledge in the field for the rest of their lives.
When discouragement strikes, she added, budding talents should resist the urge to quit, and instead, rethink their work.
“Step back and take time to visualize what you want to accomplish,” Matthews said.
She is currently working on her most prized piece — a painting of her granddaughter.
“My husband says it’s my best,” she said.
Art work from each of the competition’s entries will be on display at the Cultural Center through Oct. 31.