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Upstairs Artspace opens 2024 with Isgett, Dittenber, Flowers

Upstairs Artspace’s first slate of exhibitions in 2024 will feature artists Kevin Isgett, Suzanne Dittenber, and Mark Flowers. The exhibitions will open with an artists’ reception on Saturday, Jan. 20, from 5-7 p.m. at the gallery in downtown Tryon, NC. The opening reception is free and open to the public. These exhibitions will run through Friday, March 15, 2024.

A resident of Taylors, S.C., Isgett will present a collection of acrylic portraits described as “weirdly familiar and personal,” in his show titled, “STRANGERS.” These paintings are a result of his attraction to early American folk portraits with awkward proportions and childlike qualities. 

Isgett holds a master’s degree in fine art with a concentration in abstract painting. However, his work in portraits is self taught. 

“I decided to focus on non-academic models of portraiture and to embrace the self-taught qualities of the folk artist,” he said. “I try to unlearn rules that I’ve been taught. It excites me to paint portraits that I make up as I go along. It’s like meeting someone completely unexpected. I don’t like pre-planning of any sort in my artwork, so there are no sketches or photos to work from. The journey of finding my subject as I paint is what interests me. My goal is not to make something weird, but something weirdly familiar and personal.”

Asheville artists Flowers and Dittenber are paired in their show titled, “OFF THE WALL.”

Flowers will showcase 11 mixed media pieces, mostly from his “Baltimore Series.” These collage-like pieces are a result of his train travels in Baltimore, where he would observe and take cellphone pictures of what he saw passing through. 

“Formally, the theme of my work is the coexistence of shape and objective and non-objective imagery into a visual space,” he said. “I see my work as ‘visual jazz’ conceptually. My previous narratives have now evolved into more abstract, free form imagery. I build an overall composition using improvisation and a spontaneous process from an inventory of elements like cell phone imagery and painting techniques.” 

Flowers holds a bachelor’s degree in studio art from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in painting from Western Michigan University. For more than 42 years, he taught art at the secondary and college levels. His work can be found in more than 320 public and private collections.

Dittenber, an associate professor of painting at the University of North Carolina Asheville, will display recently produced paintings using pigmented pulp on paper, a body of work that playfully examines the inputs and byproducts of both industrial and agrarian food systems. 

She uses a hybrid paper making and painting methodology that has two-dimensional and three-dimensional applications. Her process involves synthesizing the hand-built with the mass-produced to create unique iterations. 

In exploring the subject of small-scale agricultural practices, she visits farms throughout Western North Carolina, most recently focusing her attention on Grassroots Farm and Dairy in Marshall, N.C. 

“My work captures the humanity of agricultural oases, highlighting loving care for animals and local creation of high integrity food products,” Dittenber explains.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine art from Columbus College of Art and Design, a master’s degree in fine art from the University of New Hampshire, and she completed studies at the New York Studio School and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally at several universities and museums in North America, Europe, and Asia.

“We are so excited to kick off the new year with such wonderful art,” Board President Sandra Miller said. “This round of exhibits will be very diverse and from some outstanding artists. I invite everyone to come see the art, which is very contemporary and impactful.”

The gallery is located at 49 S. Trade St., Tryon. The gallery’s winter hours are Wednesday - Saturday, 12-5 pm. For more information, visit

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