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Painter AK Westerman and silversmith Nancy Jackson team up for Turn

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AK Westerman art at the Project Box, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • AK Westerman art at the Project Box, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016.
Nancy Jackson jewelry at the Project Box, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Nancy Jackson jewelry at the Project Box, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016.

Visitors to the Paseo Arts District’s Project Box this month might feel less like they’re visiting an art gallery and more like they’ve wandered into an enchanted forest from a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy.

Turn, the latest First Friday Gallery Art Walk offering from The Project Box, features new works from painter AK Westerman and silversmith Nancy Jackson. The style of both artists conjures up images of elves and fairies, magic and mystery and fireflies in the deep, dark woods.

“It’s a kind of surrealism, but I like to call myself an organic abstract artist,” said Westerman when asked to describe her floating, swirling style. “It’s become pretty distinctive, but I felt like it was time for a change. I wanted to add something more attention-grabbing to what I was already doing.”

She experimented with adding textures to her paintings with everything from Spackle to modeling clay, and those experiments led to her new 3-D pieces. Westerman’s ethereal style and subject matter — flowing female forms, organic elements like wind and wood incorporated into backgrounds — is instantly recognizable, but now, stumps and limbs and flowers thrust themselves out of the tranquil scenes toward the viewer.

It wasn’t an easy transition.

“It took me a full year to do the four new pieces,” Westerman said. “I’d never sculpted before in my life. It presented a new challenge for me because in addition to painting, I’d have to set it aside and go model and paint 10 to 20 petals and leaves, let that dry, then go back to painting. It was a lot of different things going on at once.”

Turn is Jackson’s first art show. She said her working style is also a bit of an assembly line.

“I’ve always got several pieces going at once,” said Jackson, whose metal jewelry combines organic and fanciful elements to create layered, one-of-a-kind wearable art pieces. “When you add layers or add a stone on top of a stone on top of a stone, that’s a lot of small tasks to do one thing. It’s really stretched me. There’s always something else to do.”

However, Jackson said she’s pleased with the 80 pieces she’s showing in Turn.

“I like my work to try and tell a story,” she said. “I like it when people can look at my jewelry and say, ‘Oh, that’s a fall leaf on the ground with rain drops on it. That one’s a bunch of fireflies at night. I like it to be sculptural and three-dimensional, like little works of art. You can go get jewelry at Kohl’s for a buck forty-nine, but that’s not art.”

Westerman said although the name of the show might be straightforward, it’s deeply personal to both artists.

Turn is really about change,” she said. “It’s something everybody goes through almost constantly — changes in careers, turning points in relationships, changes in your life. For us personally, we’ve both experienced all of that recently, and we wanted to do something to mark it and celebrate that.”

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Nancy Jackson jewelry at the Project Box, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Nancy Jackson jewelry at the Project Box, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016.

Print headline: Enchanted artistry, AK Westerman and Nancy Jackson’s new exhibit at The Project Box transports visitors to another world.

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