11/06/13 — Art from the heart

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Art from the heart

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on November 6, 2013 1:46 PM

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Gene Rouse stands with some of his artwork in the T.A. Loving gallery room of the Arts Council of Wayne County.

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Gene Rouse's oil painting "Are You Ready For the Next Life" is shown.

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One of Gene Rouse's works is the oil painting "Man's Search For the Beginning," shown here.

The collected paintings of Gene Rouse on display at the Arts Council of Wayne County represent his life as an artist. They fill up the main gallery downstairs, as well as the gallery upstairs. In addition, Rouse also has artwork on display in the Mount Olive College gallery.

The exhibit has been two years in the making, said Erin Alemdar, gallery director.

"Gene was always bringing new stuff to our art market every week," she said. "I saw all the great spectrum of his work. He's done everything from still life with flowers sitting on a table to paintings about the issues of the world that will hit you to your core, about war, sadness and things like that.

"This exhibit represents who he is an as artist."

Rouse, 72, was encouraged in the field of art by his teachers in grade school, especially in grades six and seven.

"As a youngster, it was something I enjoyed and was encouraged at school, but we worked all the time on the family tobacco/turkey farm," Rouse said. "Art was play and fun at school. I really enjoyed it, but I was a farm kid in Duplin County."

Rouse went to college and got a degree in mechanical engineering. Then he joined the Air Force and was stationed in Albuquerque, N.M.

"It was during that four-year period that I really got interested in art," he said. "I was thrown into an environment completely different from North Carolina. Art was everywhere in Albuquerque. I was drawn to it."

That's where Rouse took his first art class in an art supply store. That boosted his interest even more.

He got out of the Air Force and went to Harding University in Arkansas to study the Bible, and take a few art courses. He also went to the University of Missouri and got a degree in drawing and painting. He ran the art department for three years at Oklahoma Christian University.

During a stint selling advertising, Rouse began to market his artwork, making and selling reproductions and a few originals here and there, some for as much as $2,500 each.

Eventually, Rouse and his family moved back to Wayne County.

"I've tried everything under the sun with painting," he said. "The freedom in art compared to engineering was exciting. The fact that somebody would buy some of it, I was caught up in that, too. You can learn so much from a teacher then you have to experiment on your own and struggle."

And Rouse has done just that over the years.

His paintings in the main gallery downstairs are titled "Paintings from the Heart" about the basic issues of life and the trials and tribulations that all people go through. One painting is about the origins of man, another about the storms of life that we all have and yet another about disasters, like a tsunami.

Upstairs, visitors will find paintings of just faces, some showing despair, others showing hope.

An audio tour goes along with the exhibit. Visitors will hear Rouse talking about each of his paintings and about his craft in general.

The exhibit, which runs through Nov. 22, is open Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m.

For more information, call the Arts Council at 919-736-3300.