Cover photo by Megan Reid
Greensboro artist Krystal Hart’s third artist campaign, “Cone Care Campaign,” was created specifically for the community to thank Cone Health medical workers for their services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hart’s “Hope Cards” or “Letters of Hope” is her first art campaign for Cone Health, and are sold in packs of four originally designed and hand-signed (with first name and last initial) cards. A portion of each sale is donated to the Cone Health COVID-19 Support Fund. Her goal to sell all 750 cards by the extended deadline of July 13 is almost at the halfway mark—as of June 16, 356 cards have been sold.
The messages of Hart’s cards are:
1. Hope Heals—“Health, healing, and joy are yours today and every day.”
2. Hope Strong—“Be strengthened and renewed in every area of need, for you are greatly cared for.”
3. Hope Full—“Be full of hope, know that you are in many hearts and prayers.”
4. Hope Dwells—“Dwell and rest in hope today, you are deeply loved and appreciated.”
Hart said when the governor issued North Carolina’s stay-at-home mandate, she packed up some watercolor paper pads from her Sternberger Artists Center studio and began working from her bedroom.
“I was looking out the window at how beautiful everything in nature was, but at the same time, I could feel fear and anxiety in the air,” Hart said. “I wanted to create works of beauty, combined with hints of some fear in order to replicate that feeling of unsettledness.”
She said she combined washes of watercolor, scratches into graphite paper, and bits of minerals to inspire hope. Hart used Sumi ink, which is a traditional Japanese ink made from the soot of pine branches, to paint black lines that represented anxiety and trauma.
Hart’s motivation and passion for this project stems from her personal trauma from a near-death experience that put her in the care of Cone Hospital staff for seven days in 2010.
“I was in an accident that left me pinned in a car for almost an hour,” Hart said. “They told me over 100 men from three different fire departments rescued me, using the ‘Jaws of Life’—several types of piston-rod hydraulic tools used to pry open vehicles—and a crane.”
Hart said the accident changed her life completely, and that she came out of that experience as a different person.
“Before the accident, I was traveling the world,” she explained. “I was a high-energy over-achiever. I had graduated top of my class, Suma Cum Laude.”
According to her website, Hart received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the New York Institute of Technology. Additionally, she is a recipient of various honors and residencies, including a 2007 Chairperson Fine Arts Award, 2009 and 2012 Limner Society Residencies, 2011 and 2017 North Carolina Regional Artist Grants, and the 2018 Mass MoCA Masters of Abstraction Workshop in Residency.
After the accident, Hart said it took about five years before she was able to work again due to the physical pain from a major shoulder injury and a serious Traumatic Brain Injury. In 2017, she received a grant from ArtsGreensboro for coaching with Judith Kruger of Connecticut. Kruger helped Hart hone her creative voice, and strengthen her in the traditional Japanese painting skills of Nihonga. In 2018, Hart attended the intense one-week art residency, Master Abstraction Workshop in Residence at the studios of MASS Museum of Contemporary Art.
While Hart had always been interested in people and humanity, especially during her time serving overseas as a missionary, the accident gave her a different perspective and interest on trauma and suffering, which she is now carrying over to her artwork.
“It fueled my passion to look at others’ stories,” Hart said. “My own challenges help me to communicate better—I have a deeper level of empathy, vulnerability, and intimacy—I understand. I am thinking locally and culturally on how to create safe places of silence for people to be able to find the freedom to move through what they didn’t even know they were dealing with.”
Hart said she is cultivating this new and personalized perspective on trauma and suffering into her art style through the Hope Cards.
“Since my work is about hope during times of adversity, I oxidized silver using a heat and sulfur process,” she explained. “All of my work, and materials—including soils, inks, metals, pigments, and minerals intermingled with man-made materials—have some kind of trauma happen to them. I grind pigments with my mortar and pestle, and I pour very hot water to wash away pigments. These actions of destruction create spaces of healing out of leftover things that have been destroyed.”
Hart said she is in the planning stages to exhibit with Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) for a multi-artist “Draw” show with North Carolina and New York artists that will be installed in late July.
Hope Cards sale ends July 13, at participating Greensboro eateries: Ocean Fresh Seafood Market (which is Hart’s family’s business) at 954 E. Bessemer Ave., Golden Wok at 1216 Bridford Pkwy, Thai Square at 3361 Battleground Ave., and Dolce Aroma Coffee Bar at 233 N. Elm St. Date TBA for Hart’s “Draw” exhibit at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), 750 Marguerite Dr., Winston-Salem, (336) 725-1904. For more information, visit Krystal Hart's website and Instagram page.