Krystal Hart’s soulful contemporary visions
By Ashley Wahl • Photograph by Bert VanderVeen
There’s something about 35-year-old Krystal Hart’s abstract paintings that is, well, abstract.
And so, you sit with them. You study the delicate textures and how the light dances across the surface, sporadically catching a scrap of silver leaf or some shimmering pigment or mineral. You notice what feelings arise as you heed wild scribbles of dark ink against blotches of muted colors. You notice your body respond to subtle tension.
You breathe and you notice until something happens — a gentle shift of perception — and somehow, you begin to perceive her paintings in a different way. Like an intuitive download, an inner knowing that the brain cannot fully grasp.
“Some things are just meant to be felt,” says the artist.
Because Hart’s medium largely includes organic materials like regional soils and sumi and walnut inks, whatever chaos or heaviness you may sense within her work is somehow made softer, more graceful. Like how time smooths a scar. And within each of her paintings, there is a common thread of hope.
This is the signature of Krystal Hart: Hope and a glimpse of the human spirit.
Hart was born and raised in Greensboro, where her family owns a fish market on East Bessemer. A career in art felt impractical, but she earned a B.F.A. in computer graphics from New York Institute of Technology — the next best thing.
At age 24, Hart was living in Orlando, Fla., and doing mission work with the Jesus Film Project. She was happy enough, but there was a vague longing inside her, a vision of her future she could not shake.
She shot this prayer into the ether:
I want to do my first art show before I’m 25.
“I wasn’t even making art,” says Hart. But if there was a chance that this distant vision of being an artist could actualize, “I wanted to know.”
One week later, a friend placed a “Call for Artists” on her desk. It was an application for a weeklong artist residency program hosted by New York City’s Limner Society complete with a stipend that would cover all expenses.
You can guess what happened next.
“At the end of the residency, I had three paintings,” says Hart. One of her paintings was selected for the gallery’s emerging artists exhibit. Another caught the eye of a collector: An inhospitable landscape revealing the slightest possibility of life. A Touch of Hope. He bought it for his daughter.
“They invited me into their home,” Hart recalls of the collector and his wife. “I see Picasso . . . I see Matisse . . . they compared my work to Dalí.”
Hart’s vision wasn’t a pipe dream. It was already happening.
This was 2009. The following year, Hart survived a major car accident that has since challenged her to explore who she is on a soul level and how she communicates and heals through her artwork.
“With abstract art I feel like you can move beyond boundaries,” reflects Hart, who often includes debris or what she calls “castaways” in her works to give new life and purpose to what was once broken.
Her healing journey led her to explore nontoxic mediums and has deepened her sensitivity to other people, whose lives, traumas and prayers also filter into the artist’s work.
Hart doesn’t try to hide the scars on her left hand and shoulder. They are a part of her story. And her story, she recognizes, like everyone else’s, is rich with the deep and tender moments that make us human.
In the artist’s words: My work seeks to capture and express the delicate balance of loss and finding . . . What starts as an empty expanse becomes an environment of healing, excavation and regeneration.
Explore one of her paintings and you will feel this. h
Krystal Hart’s artwork is on display in Winston-Salem at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art’s DRAWN: Concept & Craft exhibit through February 15. Visit her website at krystalhart.com.