Our own Trent Vann interviews June Hall.
Recently I visited with up and coming Atlanta artist, June Ann Hall. She shares a studio on the 13th floor of her apartment building with her partner, Zack. There’s a great view from up here, the busy intersection at tenth and Juniper, lots of green treetops and, in the distance, the hazy hump of Stone Mountain. Inside there’s more greenery—lots of plants sunning themselves in the windows, soft jazz streaming through the stereo speakers and, of course—lots of art.
Houseplants. Tea. Coffee. Jazz. Art. It’s a homey space, creative and comfortable. I could make some art here. “There’s a little something for everybody,” June says. “It’s a wonderful place to work in—our little getaway.” She offers me a seat and a cup of tea. Now that we’re comfortable, we can talk art. June is new to the art world—getting her professional start in 2006, she tells me; but already her creative output has been pretty prodigious. She works in watercolor, acrylic, digital and textiles; and the number of pieces she has created in the relatively short span of six years is impressive.
She pulls up one piece on her computer. It’s a work in progress—a digital painting—a foggy lake at night, a lighthouse in the distance, a grouping of strange lights in the dark sky. Her grandson inspired the piece. “Ever since he was a little guy, he’s been drawing his own species of aliens,” she tells me. “‘Do-a-alien,’ he tells me. ‘Nana,’—he calls me, ‘do-a-alien.’” So what could she do? She created the mystery laden scene, which she calls, “Visitors.” It was created using GIMP, which, “—is a computer program basically like Photoshop. It’s sophisticated enough for my needs and—it’s free,” she says. And free is good—especially when it comes to anything that helps you make art. And it takes some skill and persistence to use the program because in GIMP, you’re drawing with a mouse instead of a stylus—so you have to have a steady hand and a lot of patience. June has both.
She shows me another piece also created using GIMP. It’s a night sea image—still waters beneath a full moon. The shore is lined with rocks. This is a glimpse of a silent world—a place of meditation, tranquility and reflection. The next piece we look at is a painting—autumn leaves, tenuously hanging from the branches of a tree. “I look at this one and I see change,” she says. “It’s the only certainty.” Verdant green colors turn to rust—summer fading to autumn, youth fading to old age. “A doctor bought the leaf painting,” she tells me. “He enshrined it in a deep frame.”
We look at others, too—a watercolor of a lighthouse on a rocky shore—symbolic of finding your path, perhaps. You travel a dusty, uncertain trail, catching a glimpse now and again of a light in the distance and in the end you find—your own deep, interior ocean. I’m starting to get a certain meditative vibe from June’s works. They’re symbolic—dreamlike—a little haunting. To me, these are outward expressions of interior states.
She’s fond of one painting she shows me—a charming country house on a quiet road. This one is a scene taken from life—almost. It’s a house June saw, once. But the house, as she saw it that day was, “—boarded up, run down and rotted. But I saw it and I thought, I like that house; I want to bring life back to it—real life. I saw it and it was run down—but here in my picture it’s renewed.” That’s the great thing about art—it can bring life to barren places.
June is also handy with a camera, trying her hand at photography from time to time. Photography provides its own set of challenges and rewards. “In a dark room,” she says, “there’s no Control-Alt-Delete. What you see is what you get. You might develop your photographs and end up right back in the dark room until you find something you like better.” Once, the Atlanta Housing Authority benefitted from her skills. “Their photographer was late,” June explains. “I happened to be on location where they were planning to shoot. I snapped away. ‘Can we use these?’ they asked. ‘Sure,’ I said.” She ends with a laugh. “They ended up using all of them.” June’s versatile, like I said.
Right now, June is working on a new project. It’s a satchel to hold your cell phone. She calls it, appropriately enough, “Hold My Calls.” It caters to the hearing impaired. June, herself, suffers from a hearing impairment and one problem she has been faced with is being able to hear her phone ringing when it’s in her purse. This challenge set her thinking about ways to overcome a longstanding difficulty. “It really inspired me to become an entrepreneur.” She designed a satchel for her phone, wore it and liked it. So did other people. They noticed the holder and started asking where they could get one. And so, “Hold My Calls” was born. “I’ve been getting a lot of calls for Hold My Calls,” she says, “and right now, I’m working on plans to introduce it to deaf agencies.”
What’s next for June? A lot. Besides painting and creating digital art and starting up a new business to market ‘Hold My Calls’—June is also working on designing websites for herself and her partner, Zack. She showed me some preliminaries for new works inspired by butterflies—another glimpse of the symbolic journey of the soul expressed through art. She’s also hoping to be involved in some gallery shows in the city. She recently had a joint show with Zack at Jason’s Deli. Now, they’re planning some things for next spring in Piedmont Park. She and Zack are also working on getting grants for their projects—with the idea of starting local and moving out. It’s a full plate, but, as she tells me, “—that’s better than an empty one.”