Cleaster Cotton

Contemporary Primitive Artist – Room 2


Cleaster Cotton is an African American Painter, Educator, Author, Inventor, Photographer and Mother. She is a Contemporary Primitive Artist and Exo Expressionist. Cleaster was born into a large, close-knit family and lovingly raised by southern parents, in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. During adolescence, she began to travel abroad. Her cultural experiences influence her creative expression. “Creating art has always been natural to me. My process is equally artistic and scientific… organic and structured.”

Cleaster’s approach to art-making is honest, unexpected and exciting, with a refreshing use of color, texture and line. The layering of metallic paint provides movement that changes with the light of day and viewer’s vantage point. Her ability to manipulate conventional and unconventional materials produces an eclectic, fascinating range of artistic renderings. She works in mixed media and acrylic paintings, collage, drawings, sculpture and computer graphics. Cleaster’s alma maters are Fordham University in New York City and San Diego City College in California.

An international advocate for children and the arts, Cleaster’s service includes LEAF Community Arts, Member of the Board of Directors, Cultural Conservationist and Master Teaching Artist (2012-2017;) Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools STEM + Arts Educator (since 2010;) ALNUGE Codes Visual Language Inventor (1999.)

Zander Stefani

Painting and Illustration – Room 3


Zander Stefani has always been an emotional being; ever since his childhood he has sought out expression as a way to dilute the intensity of existence. Zander was born in Toronto, CA and spent the first five years of his life in the mountains of Vermont. From that point forward he moved around the east coast with his family. He ended up in coastal Connecticut where he spent the majority of his schooling years. He was lucky enough to travel around Europe at quite a young age which opened his eyes to the grander possibilities of this life. He went to Savannah College of Art and Design where he got his BFA in painting and illustration. He is currently living and working in Asheville, NC.

Zander’s work displays the unfolding story of his spiritual journey. Each piece unlocks an additional component of a never ending narrative. His work has intertwining tones of otherworldliness and street style, bringing to light the palpable connection between the pure expression of graffiti and the intense meditation of spirituality. Inspired by his idealized view of the world around him, Zander will never give up the fight to bring harmony and love alongside him wherever he goes. He believes there are no limits to what can be created and looks forward to exploring infinite possibilities in this lifetime.

Valeria Watson

Mixed Media – Room 4


Valeria lives in Asheville, North Carolina, city of hopes, dreams and delusions. Awakening from delusions that harm self and others is the central core, motive, power, blessing and message of her work. She creates healing environments. Matrices of higher dimensions intersecting with our own flat land experience. She is a Priestess of Osun and a minister, and uses her art and performance to infuse love and healing energy into the very fiber of the process and objects.

The indigenous Adire Indigo of the Yoruba and Kenyan and Moroccan textiles ripple through my work. She traveled to the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, to visit the renowned El Anatsui after first seeing the beauty of his work in Berlin in 2010 in the citywide installation ‘Who Knows Tomorrow.’ His monumental works were draped on a major museum in the city. She shall ever be convinced of the fact that size does matter. Seeing his monumental works changed her forever.

His studio had the distinct air of a zen monastery. She got to see how he worked with locals who would come to work for the day and be paid for the work done, free agents. When she asked how she could do monumental work, he said, “join your smaller works together.” And thus she now joins her work as a costumer, painter, performer in one interior space, seeking to be the “El Anatsui of interior space.”

Cheryl Eugenia

Painter – Room 5


currently lives in Asheville. She was born in Shelby, NC and lived in Charlotte.
She attended UNCC for two years. She took a long, over a decade, hiatus out of southern culture moving to Portland, Oregon. There, she finished her BA at Portland State in Art History. Greatly missing the sun, friends, southern culture and her family, she moved back to NC in 2016.

It was her mother’s good friend who was a water color artist that got Cheryl intrigued in painting her first painting at 9 years old. She’s been painting since. She always found doing art a soothing escape from the tedious work-a-day nine to five or the world of small talk. Her work has been compared to Surrealism. Once a viewer called her style “gentle surrealism.” She primarily works in oils.

She is greatly influenced by the animal, botanical and microbial world around her. She loves to paint flowers, beetles, bats, diatoms, spiders, unearthly vases, bunnies, butterflies, Alchemy, wallpaper designs and haunted houses. She loves to see the juxtaposition of current technology with old world subjects. She is fascinated with color, especially complimentary colors and Prussian blue.

Erica Stankwytch Bailey

Jewelry – Room 9


Erica’s work is both organic and architectural, and is created from the visual fragments of a life of collecting images. She inspects the world in great detail and has always collected shells, seedpods, stones and interesting organic elements. Her studio often resembles a laboratory with trays of specimens lined in rows. The walls and pages of her sketchbook are covered with myriad images of her world from nano-photography of plant life to the expansiveness of the Grand Canyon. In designing, making and living she sees a strong relevance for the smallest things within the larger context; the seed that becomes a plant, the jewelry on the wearer, our planet within the universe. She uses a variety of techniques in an effort to create pieces that are tactile and invoke in the wearer a sense of personal attachment.

Spies Design

Jewelry – Room 10


Klaus found his love for jewelry in his early teens and was fascinated by all the possibilities to create beautiful things. Growing up in Europe, he was touched by the masterworks of the goldsmithing tradition almost as old as mankind. After traveling extensively, and pursuing his craft in Berlin, Germany, he moved to Chicago, IL in 1999 and started Spies Design. In 2008 he moved to Asheville where he now has a studio and showroom in the city’s lively downtown. During the last 20 years, he has experimented with all kinds of techniques, but the learning process in the art of goldsmithing never ends. Aside from creating new collections, he is always experimenting with new materials and methods.

Creating jewelry as a way to express himself, Klaus gets his ideas by observing his surroundings wherever he is: in nature by looking at the patterns of plants or animals, in the cities by watching the people, in dreams by listening to his inner voice. He uses a wide variety of goldsmithing techniques like chasing, fabricating, wax carving, casting etc. Over the years he has developed my own style, aiming for perfection in craftsmanship while still breaking the rules of joyless, classical, industrialized jewelry.

Christine Longoria

Painter – Room 17


Christine Longoria is a graduate of Trinity University, where her mentor was a student of Hans Hoffman. She was greatly influenced by him, and by Richard Dibenkorn. She has a graduate degree from Western Carolina University. Over the last 40 years, she has taken classes at UNCA, and was honored to be mentored by Jamie McWhirter, who had taught in the Art Department at Louisiana State University for many years.

Longoria was a founding member of the Asheville Gallery of Art, and displays work at galleries throughout North Carolina. She has work is hanging in many private homes and corporations throughout the United States.
Until 2015, she was represented by the American Folk Gallery, as their only trained artist. She now has her studio on the South Slope, after being in the River Arts District over the years.

“When asked what inspires me, I can say only when I approach a canvas, start making marks, the inspiration comes. My work is formed through the movement of the process, rather than having a specific idea from the beginning. I rely on intuition, love of brilliant color, and I hope to make the viewer see differently, and think more deeply.”