Anyone walking through the lobby of the North Building at Sampson Community College has seen the unique artwork hanging on loan from local artist Peter Butler.
Butler, who has a studio in downtown Clinton, has loaned his piece “Rescue” to the college as a way to take his unique artistic abilities out into the community. Work on this painting, Butler said, began in 2011. It took the artist nearly a year to complete the massive artwork that was too large to bring down the stairs from his third-floor studio. The artwork was taken out of the window instead.
The college will host an artist reception June 12 from 4-6 p.m. at the college, giving the community a chance to meet Butler and talk with him about the artwork. Some of the preliminary drawings for the piece will be framed and on display during the reception.
Displaying the artwork at the college is part of new SCC president Dr. Bill Starling’s plan to show the uniqueness the college brings to the community.
“Community colleges should reflect the uniqueness of the communities they serve and help celebrate the diversity, industry, and talent of their service area,” Starling said. “We are excited to be able to begin inviting local artist to exhibit their work across the campus. Peter’s ‘Rescue’ works well to signal our invitation to other artists who might want to loan work for exhibition. ‘Rescue’ is a large thought provoking piece that now greets people in the lobby of North Building.”
According to Butler, the piece was inspired by a tragedy in Green River, Wyo., in the 1980s. At the time, the artist said he lived just a mile from where the incident took place.
Late one evening, a woman backed her car into the river with her two small children inside. Despite attempts to rescue the children, their lives were lost.
“I was haunted and then inspired by this story of tragedy and the heroic effort to save these lives,” Butler explained.
For the painting, Butler says he envisioned three men in a boat and a woman in the water being held by a rescuer.
“The event that inspired me was intense and emotional, so my painting had to be as well,” Butler said. “In ‘Rescue’ the fate of the woman is unclear. It’s open to interpretation by the viewer.”
While Butler says the subject of the piece is contemporary, the dark history painting belongs to that of the style of 19th century paintings.
“Maybe I leaned on that period a little in my presentation,” Butler added. “It is very much a social and political statement. What do we as human beings do when another is in distress? What do we do when our loved ones are in danger or ill? We do our very best to rescue them.”
For years, Lisa Turlington, assistant to the president for advancement and SCC Foundation director, has been fascinated by the panting and shared her excitement at the thought of others getting to experience Butler’s work.
“I have been intrigued by the painting for years and was excited when Peter offered to loan it to the college,” Turlington explained. “My office faces the lobby, so I can see the reactions of people when they first see it. Almost everyone stops to consider the image. A faculty member who didn’t know the name of the painting commented about the symbolism of education as a lifeboat in rescue.”
Since becoming president, Starling has worked to bring diversity and a new look to the college. Sampson Arts Council director Kara Donatelli believes displaying Butler’s artwork is a perfect way of doing both.
”Dr. Starling has made some great changes to the scenery and this is no different,” Donatelli said. “Of course, whenever you can involve art anywhere, that is a great thing.”
Local art collector and business woman Anne Faircloth says “Rescue” not only sheds light on Butler’s artistic talents, but gives the community a glimpse at fine art.
“As a collector, admirer and friend of Peter’s, I believe this piece is the capstone of his career to date,” Faircloth shared. “It is a large scale, epic work that I know has personal meaning for him. SCC is fortunate that he is willing to let it have a home for a while on campus where the community can appreciate this fine painting.“
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.