Art Studio Honors a Father
This artist studio is a dream come true for artist and owner, Deborah Kepes.
Deborah Kepes, the owner of Cobble Creek Studios, thinks that the work of Wanda Locke is amazing, especially from a technical standpoint – and she should know.
As an accomplished artist herself, with years of education, experience and training, Kepes has finally made a dream come true for herself by opening these studios in Snellville. And, she’s kept a creative spark she’s had all her life, courtesy of her father, James H. Ankrom, for whom the gallery is named.
“My father was a welder,” says Kepes. “But not like the ones you might think of, his welding was a different and more creative kind.”
She walks into her office and studio room and brings out seal, with a ball balanced on its nose. The seal is flat, but with shape. The ball is actually a metal ball, balanced on the seal’s nose. She says that her father made it for her, using his creativity. She credits him with her own sense of creativity. Ankrom passed away in 2006. Kepes thinks her father would be proud that she’s done what she’s done, for her love of art.
It is this love of art that allows her to find artists that should be seen, but perhaps you don’t know about. Artists like Wanda Locke, whose works grace the James H. Ankrom Gallery walls until the end of the month. Locke was a painter, a muralist and a sculptor whose work spanned the country. In 2008, she lost her life -- she had lived with cancer and died of respiratory failure -- but before that, she led a life of passion for God and art. (Locke's family indicated that surgical complications also caused her death.)
Her last series of work were 4-by-6 paintings of the six days of creation, which were completed about three months before she passed away. Locke had six children, and it was her dream for each of them to receive a painting from this collection each.
Ceramic artist, Dennis Craig had a passion before he became a potter: he was a fencer – as in the kind with swords. But, after a knee injury, he and his wife took a throwing class, the rest is history, with some of it here on display, also until the end of the month.
Kepes picks up the pieces of pottery that Craig has created from the many shelves it adorns and talks about the wonder of finding a “potter of this ability” to show. Her respect for his art is apparent. So is her respect for all artists.
Since 2000, she has been a member of the prestigious Portrait Society of America and has been doing commissioned portraits all along. After teaching at South Gwinnett Community School – to classes that filled up before they even started – she knew she had to do more to share her love of art. In 2002, she won “Teacher of the Year,” making it clear that she had to make a change. It was then that she moved her classroom to her home. But soon, that wasn’t big enough for all the programs and classes she yearned to teach.
She began looking for a spot and almost gave up, until she found where she is now, on Scenic Highway.
“The owner was on the board at The High Museum,” Kepes says. “It was then, that it felt like it was supposed to be.”
The portraits in her studio room tell a story. Through the faces she has captured on canvas, they speak to the viewers, with deep, quiet, yet lively tones. Her studio offers classes for others to learn that passion, too. She wants to offer scholarships to students in the community who can’t afford her classes – and more.
“I’ve always thought that when an artist paints, that it captures a moment in time,” she says.
Kepes knows she has additional things to accomplish. “I’d love to have the time to do my own work,” she says. “I know my journey is not over, yet.”
For more information on classes and exhibits, click here.
*(Editor's Note: This story has been revised. An earlier version did not clarify the actual cause of death for Wanda Locke. She previously did have cancer, but her official causes of death were respiratory failure and surgical complications, according to her family.)