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Women in the Arts: Cora King

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

*It is our shared goal for this series to shed light on the many different ways these local women are working behind-the-scenes to advance the arts every day - no matter what other roles they may also be juggling.

Written by Carrie Beth Wallace

Images courtesy of Cora King and Sammie Saxon

What does marketing, midwifery, the film industry, and the cello have to do with becoming a woman in the arts? For Cora King, a multi-faceted background has meant everything.

Read on to discover the story of how a non-traditional path has led expressionist painter Cora King to being one of the top emerging artists in our area.

Image by Sammie Saxon for HART.

Q: How did you, or when did you know that you were creative?

A: I always knew that I was creative. I always dabbled in creative outlets, such as music. I started playing the cello when I was 12. I've always had a desire to do something creative in some form of expression. Music has always been very important to me.

Q: Do you still play today?

A: I play with friends, or you know, if someone needs a cellist for an event or a cello track to be covered in the studio. It's fun to be someone that can go in and do that. I find it very rewarding to still be able to do things like that. But I knew early on that my outward expression of art could not be fully expressed just through the cello.

Music is such an important part of my creativity, and it that has helped me become more fluent in creating through the medium of paint.

Q: Do you paint to music?

A: All the time, all the time. I don't create without music. I'm always painting with music in the studio, and my art is often impacted by what I'm listening to that day. You can really see the difference. I put out a lot of different styles.

My landscapes aren't the same style that I would do my portraits or my more abstract figurative pieces. That is very intentional and all of it is very influenced by music.

Q: When did you begin painting?

A: Well, I've always been creative. I started painting three years ago. I had dabbled with art before, but three years ago was when I began really painting with intention.

Q: What made you start painting?

A: I had this memory that I couldn't fully express through music, and I just had to get it out somehow. It was the first time I ever saw a witch, and also the first time I ever saw a peacock. This experience has stuck with me throughout my life and I've journaled about it several times. Journaling is something I try to do every day. I think it's so valuable. I love to go back and read my entries. I'm fascinated by how the memories change and the meanings within each memory.

This whole experience was just a very poignant thing that has stuck with me. Over time, I started to have dreams about this memory and it just kind of started to meld. I think that was the catalyst of the understanding that I needed to express this in a way that only words would not do. Color and texture had to be a part of that.

Q: Interesting. Why do you think that was?

A: For me, color and texture are connected to inner emotion. The catalyst of me wanting to paint is because I had this dream, and I knew I had to get it out. I still haven't executed it, but I work on it a lot. The interesting thing is that it's not like it's anything profound, but is something that led me to understanding that painting is the medium that is going to help me forward my creative expression.

Sure, I could have gone more of a musical direction, but the access to color and texture puts creative expression on another level for me. If I can marry the two, great, but I have to have the color and texture's expression of movement. I love that you can get that in painting. You can get the color and you can get the texture, you get the movement, all of that. When I think about it, that's what led me to tangible media.

Q: Cora, you've had a lot of roles in your life. Can you give our audience an overview of the job titles you've held? I think your story is really interesting.

A: Sure. I've been a nanny a few times. I was a bartender a few times. I went to school to be a midwife, but I did not practice. I worked selling billboards. I managed a team of sales with digital marketing. I've written. I worked in the film industry with event planning, assisted in organizing a film festival, and a lot of other film-centric skills. I worked with budding filmmakers to help them either scout locations or familiarize them with a specific market. Overall, I guess you could say I've spent a lot of time in the marketing and entertainment industries.

I also was an administrative assistant for Bo Bartlett and Betsy Eby. I ran both of their studios and was with them for about six years.

Image by Tony Pettis via Cora King.

Q: Wow. I didn't know that! So how do all of the roles you've had contribute to your work?

A: Well, the easiest answer would be that the marketing and events experience I've had put the small business owner aspect of an artist on the forefront of my mind. I understand how to have everything mapped out for a small business. I have the business part down and I know how to do that. Now, I didn't go to art school for formal training, so I'm kind of going about all of this the opposite way around, but the business aspect, I've got.

I am more confident in facilitating a small business than I am painting right now. I feel like as far as skill goes in learning certain art techniques,I'm an open book and so ready to learn more about every day. I think it's important to keep a pure, in a sense of what feels right and not get so stuck into honing in on a specific skillset.

Q: What do you mean?

A: Well, I'm not a realist painter. I don't paint to emulate what I see, I paint to emulate what I feel. The skillset required is very different. Don't get me wrong, I would love to learn more in the way of realism. I have so much to learn, but I think the more I learn, the more it will help me be able to express exactly what I need to execute as a painter myself.

Q: Where are you in that process, Cora?

A: Well, I've only been painting for a short time, and right now a lot of times it just feels like slapping paint down and getting lucky. Most of the time, it's just more of an intuitive thing. If it feels right, then I consider it a success, and if it doesn't, then I start again.

I'm keenly aware that I haven't had a traditional path as a painter. And I don't know if it's working, but it's not, not working. You know? Right now, I'm focused on loving the freedom to make mistakes and learn from everything I create.

Q: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the arts?

A: It means to be incredibly strong and incredibly vulnerable. I cannot create without a sense of bravery. I have to be brave, because creating is uncomfortable. Any time an artists shares something they've made, they are putting a piece of themselves out into the world.

Sometimes, it feels like jumping in is the only way I can do it. It's like jumping into a cold pool, like easing in hurts so badly, but if I can just dive in then it's okay.

Q: What taught you this about yourself?

A: I learned that through sitting for other artists. I've modeled for artists for a long time and being unclothed and in front of other eyes puts a whole different dynamic on thing. As a model, I learned to just breathe and recognize that in that space I am a body and it's a shell and light and shadows are doing things to it that make it something amazing for the artist's eye.

Now, I'm on both sides. I love going to Gary (Pound)'s studio for his Friday morning figurative drawing sessions. It is such a great practice. Part of the vulnerability of creating for me is very fueled by that space, and the ability to give and take from it.

Q: Cora, you have an upcoming show, right?

A: Yeah. I'm so excited about it! I'm really honored to be with this group of people. It's a group of other expressionists, and they're all insanely talented. Tony Pettis approached me. He has a great relationship with AC Marriott and had a solo show there in the past year. This time, he wanted to get together some expressionist artists.

Promotional photography for HART provided by Sammie Saxon.

Q: Who all is in the show?

A: Tony invited several of us. It's myself and Suzanne Reed Fine, who is a mentor to me. She is so nurturing and is an amazing inspiration to me. I have tcoraso much respect and adoration for her art as well. I'm honored to be affiliated with her in a show. Tony is absolutely incredible, and I love him with all of my heart. Jaclayvious Emmanuel is a new artist and his work is absolutely phenomenal. Finally. Landon Bennett is an incredible artist who is new to the local scene and his work is very powerful as well.

The show is entitled HART and will be March 12 from 5-8PM at AC Marriott.

Q: What are you most excited about for this show?

A: I'm really looking forward to share my art in a new place. It's downtown and is a really great spot to host an art show. They've got a great blank canvas that's very modern and cool. It feels like you're somewhere when you walk in, and is a space that transforms easily. The neutral tones will be really good for the type of art we're going to be bringing in. So yeah, I've just been working away at my studio, and I can't wait!

Cora's Local Favorites:

Place for a walk: Lakebottom Park

Dinner Spot: Mikata or Mabella.

Favorite work of art currently on display in Columbus, Georgia: Bo Bartlett's Object Permanence, 1986, Oil on Linen, 120 x 168.

Favorite small Businesses: Plant Magic Market, The Leetones, Light & Co., and Riverflow Yoga because breathing is life. Literally.

Favorite upcoming business: Gypsy Rider bike share, available late spring at City Mills boutique hotel.


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