Oils, watercolors and Godzilla

When Mint Hill Arts says, “anything goes,” literally – anything goes.

John Barja’s “Godzilla!” paper mache creation (above) greets visitors to Mint Hill Arts as part of its new exhibit “Anything Goes.”

The nonprofit’s January exhibit, most appropriately titled “Anything Goes,” features everything from watercolor paintings to photography to a 4-foot-long paper mache Godzilla hanging from the ceiling.

The exhibit will be on display through Jan. 31 and can be viewed Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the 11205 Lawyers Road, suite A, gallery in Mint Hill.

Mint Hill Arts will host an opening reception Friday, Jan. 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. The reception features wine, soft drinks and appetizers, as well as a 50/50 raffle drawing. Raffle tickets cost $2 each or three for $5. The winner will receive half the pot, and Mint Hill Arts will get the other half. The drawing takes place at 8 p.m.

As the holidays come to a close, January is the perfect time to host a grab bag-themed show, according to Mint Hill Arts President Tony Billotto.

“‘Anything Goes’ is just a catchy title for a non-themed show,” Billotto said. “The reason we didn’t want to have a theme is people are so busy during the holidays. Often, people don’t have time to create new work for a January show. So basically, if you have new stuff, great. If you have old stuff, great. Any artistic vision is welcome.”

Take John Barja, for example. Barja, the Mint Hill Arts member behind Godzilla, took a piece of art he constructed for fun nearly 15 years ago and is sharing it with the public for the first time.

“Born in the same year” as Godzilla – the first American film came out in 1954, Barja’s birth year – Barja wanted to pay homage to a character he loved. In 1998, Barja was housing a Japanese exchange student when the inspiration hit; he wanted to create his own Godzilla.

“I just decided to do paper mache project and it just got bigger and bigger,” said Barja, who worked for several weeks on the piece.

Godzilla was designed to suspend from the ceiling and remained in Barja’s house until earlier this month when the creature made his trip to the Mint Hill Arts gallery.

“I had never shown him off before,” Barja said of Godzilla. “It’s kind of a personal piece I kept at my own residence for a while. I hadn’t put anything in paper mache category, and it was kind of a quirky thing, so I decided to enter it.”

Joining Godzilla are about 80 pieces of artwork by Mint Hill Arts members and nonmembers. Mediums include watercolor and oil paintings, sculptures, drawings, photography, jewelry, collages and more. Themes incorporate landscape scenery, wildlife and figurative work that “pertains to human beings,” Billotto said.

“Every artist has a unique vision. Some of them are subtle and some of them are not,” he said. “There’s always a nice eclectic mix at Mint Hill Arts. You’re not going to see all landscapes or all portraits or all one thing.”

Billotto said the organization is already gearing up for its February show, “Well-Seen and Captured,” a photography-themed show the nonprofit has hosted in the past. The show is open to both members and nonmembers and will be juried for the first time, awarding prizes for first, second and third place and honorable mentions.

The nonprofit also has winter-themed artwork on display at the Mint Hill Town Hall, part of a plan to have four art shows at town hall throughout the year, each centered on the four seasons.

For more information on Mint Hill Arts, or to find out how you can enter your artwork in future exhibits, call 980-226-5532 or visit www.minthillarts.org.

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