Cary Artist: Constance Pappalardo
December 11, 2015 | Story by: Jessica Patrick | Categories: Arts, Featured, Profiles
Cary, NC — I met Constance Pappalardo, a Cary artist, to hear her stories about growing up in New York, traveling as a missionary and the art she creates today.
Constance Pappalardo has lived in Cary for almost 30 years now and has immersed herself in the local art scene. She is a member of the Village Art Circle gallery in Ashworth Village, Artspace in Raleigh, Visual Art Exchange, the Durham Art Guild and more. She helped form the Cary Art Loop and has exhibited her work at multiple venues and galleries around the Triangle – in fact, she has three shows coming up in the first half of 2016 alone.
Constance, who was born in Peru and moved to New York with her family when she was eight, was exposed to a diverse and advanced art scene at a young age. We met for coffee to talk about her paintings, her inspiration and the places she’s lived and worked.
Q: How did growing up in New York influence your art?
My mother loved art – she was a very cultured woman – and she’d take me to the Metropolitan Museum almost everyday. I just grew up loving art.
The paintings felt like my friends. As I got older, I got better at anything I did that was creative, and I was surrounded by people who supported me. My teachers would tell me that my paintings were special, and that praise means a lot to a child.
Q: And that inspired you to go to art school?
I went to a very progressive high school called the United Nations International School, which had a huge art program. Then, from there, I went to the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.
Q: I heard you worked as a missionary. When was that?
It was after college. One day, I just heard the call. I dropped everything, shocking my family and friends, and left New York to be a missionary in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands. Even though it felt like what I was meant to do, a part of me wondered, “What about my art?”
I felt very strongly that I’d get it back one day, though.
Q: And you did! How did that happen?
I eventually came back to the states to join my husband. We moved to Cary in 1986 and had four children, and, needless to say, I was very busy! Art was not even on the horizon – I wouldn’t even feel inspired when I’d help with school art projects. Then, we lost our teenage son, Josh, in 2003. It wasn’t a conscious thing, but, within six months, I heard a call to start painting again just as I’d heard the call to be a missionary years ago.
The next day, I bought canvases and just started painting.
Q: And you’ve been painting ever since?
Yes, though, now, after 12 years, it’s not as intuitive and spontaneous as it was in the beginning. I worry a lot more. There are more expectations now that I’m in shows and selling so much of my work. I’m excited to exhibit at The Umstead for the first time in January, because I’ve always wanted my work there.
Q: What makes painting special for you?
There are many different types of artists; each with a different motivation. I am the kind who is more interested in beauty than in truth, more interested in the ideal over the reality. I have always strived to create “serious” art and have struggled with the definition.
As I look around this world today I realize that the most serious thing I can do as an artist is to add a bit of beauty here and there, a quiet place to breathe and find our souls again.
Q: You work with pretty big canvases, too.
Not too big – my largest piece is 72″ x 36″ – mainly because that’s the largest size that will fit in my van, which is really something to conside
Q: Your work is abstract and mostly in watercolor – is that hard to do on large canvases?
I used to paint small and on paper. Then, at an art critique one day, a very well known painter and teacher told me I should “paint large.”
It felt very personal – advice sometimes feels like more than just what someone said. I bought my first big canvas, which is small to me now, and started painting. It didn’t even occur to me to switch to acrylics or oils, I just kept working with watercolors. It took awhile, but I played with it, and I eventually taught myself techniques to make it work for me.
You can never plan art, and I’m always looking for the “happy accident.”
Q: How is the Cary art scene different than that in New York City?
In Manhattan, where I grew up, standards for being an artist are really different. It’s all about the cutting edge, political and social commentary and some shock value. That’s just not me. And the competition is fierce! Here, there’s less pressure – there isn’t a feeling of negative competition among the artists. A lot of people paint because it’s relaxing and fun, and people buy work because they love it. In New York, many people buy art to be collectors.
They’re wondering how valuable it will be years down the road. I think if I had stayed in New York, my work would be really different today.
Constance, as she mentioned in the interview, has a solo show coming up in January at The Umstead. The show will feature two different styles, the color work as well as the black and white series. There will be a reception on January 20, 2016 from 6-8 pm.
Two Minds, One Artist
Opens January 6, 2016 & runs for four months
at The Umstead Hotel & Spa, 100 Woodland Pond Drive, Cary
Constance’s other upcoming shows include a January show with another artist, Erin Oliver, at the Carrboro Arts Center and an April show at the Durham Convention Center.
Story by Jessica Patrick. Photos from Constance Pappalardo Art.
Artist Constance Pappalardo offers a sampler of styles at Blake Street.
BY SARAH BARR
RALEIGH — When artist Constance Pappalardo paints, she often feels that she is in conversation with her canvas
about what step to take next.
She may want to go one way, but her paints and brushes insist on another. Usually though, they come around.
“I kid around about it,” she said. “I say I fight with the canvas and I eventually win.”
Pappalardo works in variety of styles, from large watercolor abstracts that emphasize movement and color to black and white linear work that draws on her experience listening to music. She’s also added mixed-media pieces on wood to her repertoire.
All three styles will be on display this month at Blake Street Studio and Shops in an exhibit Pappalardo calls “A Box of Chocolates.”
Depending on the emotion she seeks to express or the story she wants to tell, Pappalardo turns to different styles. Mixed media might work best for telling a story, while a colorful painting might best convey an emotion.
“People always talk about how an artist goes from one period to another. But I've found that for me I need to express different things at different times, simultaneosly. ” she said.
Pappalardo, 58, was born in Lima, Peru, and moved to New York City as a child. As a young adult, she studied at The Art Students League and School of Visual Arts.
But after Pappalardo married and had four children, her art took a back seat to her busy family life. She returned to her art many years later, about a decade ago, after the death of her teenage son.
A few months later, she started painting again. She never explicitly considered her art a kind of therapy, but it became a way to express herself.
“It was this feeling of, ‘Now it's time to do this,’” she said.
Where her art had once been dark and often full of angst, Pappalardo found her new work conveyed light and hope, a welcome development.
Pappalardo immersed herself in Raleigh’s art community with classes and shows, finding fellow artists who encouraged and supported her.
She became a member of the Visual Art Exchange and the Durham Art Guild and worked to foster the arts in Cary, where she resides.
But Raleigh has remained her artistic home.
“I just decided that it’s for me,” she said. “I’m here for good.”
Blake Street is located at 300 Blake St. The gallery is open for First Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Pappalardo’s work is on display through July 28.
The show also features work by painters Jaqueline Liggins and Ellen Gamble and mixed-media pieces by Debbie Crawford.Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsar
An abstract way of thinking
"Constance Pappalardo: Mixed Media Paintings, Of Two Minds,"
Joe Rowand Art Gallery, 1713 Legion Road, Chapel Hill, through Sept. 28.
Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For information, call 919-869-7247.
Most of us have specific ideas about abstract painting and what it looks like; we would say there are colors and shapes, but no realistic objects. This is not wrong; the problem is there are so many variations. For example, the Impressionists painted fields purple and orange and yellow and used a very loose brushstroke; opinions covered the gamut from "these are just sketches" because the surface is unfinished to "the artists are throwing paint on the canvas" since realistic objects in the canvas are obvious only at a distance.
The Russian Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) gets credit for inventing abstract painting, but he likened his images to music, endowing various colors with the sounds of musical instruments. Other Russians of the early 20th century made paintings with just lines, shapes and color and declared art's independence from the real world.
Constance Pappalardo describes her paintings as contemporary abstract watercolors; they are either in black and white or vivid color. Their underlying core is a series of lines applied with a straight edge in varying widths across the canvas surface. The black and white paintings, with their vertical lines, have musical names like "Fugue," "Opus" and "Toccato." You might say the lines relate to the electronic translation of music, which is visualized as an assortment of lines. Her colored canvases feel like landscapes or seascapes and have ambiguous names as well as specific references, so we get "Meditation," "Primavera" and "El Mar."
Watercolor is a difficult medium and unforgiving. Sometimes the surfaces of the landscapes have paint so thin the weave of the canvas insists itself on the spectator's consciousness; often the paint gently bleeds downward. And then the paint can be thick, adding other texture. Her combinations speak to her artistry and mastery of the medium. Whatever the paint does, the artist allows; she is always in control.
The black and white images are even more precise. There is the off white background sectioned by black lines with drips and bleeds at right angles. Impossible, she must have painted these verticals as horizontals and then turned them. And just to keep us off balance, she writes "the Last Man on Earth" on one of them.
But Papparlardo is not finished; her latest canvases have just enough realism to show us a new progression. One of the heavily colored ones has two birds, one in the lower left corner and one in the upper right and two smaller black and whites have broader lines which sprout leaves. Now we are sure, the ones with brilliant colors are landscapes and the black and whites are forests. Yes, she tells us, these are realistic, yet the birds are just two thick brush marks and the leaves are flat spade-like flecks.
It is the problem we have with abstraction. The artist has led us on a merry chase and under her very experienced guidance, we see exactly what she wants us to see and we delight in her artistry.
Blue Greenberg's column appears each week in Entertainment and More. She can be reached at or by writing her in c/o The Herald-Sun,
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