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Paintings on Glass: Libby Bentley shows off 'edgy' artwork in Waterworks exhibit

By Susan Shinn

Salisbury Post

Sometimes, a fish is just a fish — a dragonfly, just a dragonfly.

You don’t have to look to find any hidden meaning in Libby Bentley’s paintings — you just have to enjoy them.

Her work is on display in an exhibit, “Paintings on Glass,” at Waterworks Visual Arts Center, 123 E. Liberty St., through April 7.

Bentley, 47, says she didn’t invent this method by any means.

“It’s something I enjoyed,” says Bentley, who lives in Salisbury with her husband, Logan, and their daughter, Arden, 9.

Bentley has been working in this medium since the ’80s. She gave away much of her work when she moved from Florida to North Carolina.

Bentley uses cast-off windows — frames and all — to create her artwork, and she buys her paint in the seconds area at Lowe’s.

“It’s a lot cheaper than having to get it framed,” Bentley says of the found pieces. “It’s all self-contained.”

She paints backward on a canvas of glass.

“You start carving out what you want to paint,” she says. “Sometimes it ends up how you expect. Sometimes, you see something better in the painting.”

She’ll finish the painting with a white background or with a clear coating so that the light will show through — much like a stained-glass piece.

Latex enamel, she says, is a forgiving medium.

“I’ve tried oil painting and I don’t have the patience,” Bentley says. “It takes forever to dry.”

With latex, she can complete a painting in a day or so.

“I’m not real methodical,” Bentley admits. “When I have an idea, I want to get it done right then.”

Although Bentley studied art in high school, she didn’t like the precision it required.

“I don’t like following a certain set of rules,” she says.

There’s a freeness in her work that’s appealing.

Bentley says she didn’t have the discipline for college.

“I didn’t do my homework in high school, so I wasn’t going to do it in college,” she says. “I didn’t have the discipline to go to school.”

But she found the discipline to prepare pieces for the show.

Bentley draws much of her inspiration from her daughter Arden, from toys and animals.

“As a mom, I don’t have that teen angst yet,” she says.

In “Puppet vs. Pork Chop,” the toy puppets clearly seem to be winning whatever battle is being waged.

“If Wishes Were Fishes, We Wouldn’t Do Dishes” has Arden’s long, black hair swirling throughout the background and a fish swimming by.

She and her husband own Logan’s Reef, a saltwater aquarium shop.

“I’m with the fish, I’m with the kid,” Bentley says. “Every morning, we’re battling over hair brushes.”

Bentley’s quirky sense of humor comes through in her work.

“Bad Monkey” portrays a sad Curious George, who’s apparently done away with The Man in the Yellow Hat. Only the lonely hat remains.

With “Heart,” Bentley painted a realistic heart, and even painted the frame red to match.

“I actually looked up the different parts of the heart,” she says, and she labeled them on the glass.

Bentley nailed three long, skinny windows together to create a triptych called “Ray Gun.”

She pronounces “Cow Fish” “very cute.”

“He’s almost like a puffer,” she says.

Local artists Whitney Peckman and her husband Syed Ahmad own two of the paintings in the show, “Dragonfly” and “Arden.”

The two saw “Arden” hanging at Escape the Daily Grind.

“We were just struck by it,” Peckman says.

They bought “Dragonfly” soon after.

“Libby has very edgy work,” Peckman says. “She’s not concerned with preciseness.”

The raw emotion, Peckman says, is appealing.

“It’s very Libby,” she says. “Her work is very personal and in that way, it’s very special.

“You can see she’s not concerned with being pretty.”

The other 14 paintings in the exhibit are for sale.

Bentley says that she paints in spurts. She has a spare bedroom and “gets everything together” and gets going.

She doesn’t paint every day.

“I should,” she says. “I wish I did.”

Maybe it’s because she’s too busy doing laundry.

In “Laundry Is Evil,”Bentley painted a 1970s-style avocado green washing machine and added some Chinese characters in the lower right corner, the meaning of which now escapes her — something to do with hormones, she thinks.

“I have this hamper full of clean laundry and I pull stuff out,” Bentley says. “It never makes it to the drawers.

“Laundry is just relentless.”

But evil?

Maybe, maybe not. But it certainly makes a catchy title for a painting.

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Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information about Libby Bentley’s exhibit, call Waterworks at 704-636-1882.

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Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com.

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