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'Not all who wander are lost': Local artist featured in Eno Mill Gallery


Austin Cathey poses for a portrait on Franklin Street on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. 

"Not all who wander are lost."

From J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" series, the quote is referenced in artist Austin Cathey's exhibition of the same name — "Not all who wander are lost."

The exhibition featured 14 of Cathey's pieces — large mixed media abstract works on paper and canvas — and was shown at the Eno Mill Gallery this month.

"Not all who wander are lost" is also an homage to the exhibition that he wasn't able to hold for his graduate thesis.

Cathey received a bachelor of fine arts in drawing from UNC-Asheville and a master of fine arts in printmaking and painting from Miami University of Ohio. The exhibition features two pieces that Cathey began working on while at UNC-Asheville.

“Only 'Among the Fragmented' was shown at that time," he said. "However, 'Not all who wander are lost' has never been exhibited anywhere else, and most of the artwork is being shown for the first time.”

Now based in Carrboro, Cathey has a studio in the Eno Arts Mill and manages a gallery and gift shop for the Hillsborough Arts Council.

He said that he loves abstract expressionism and all genres of romantic landscape painting.

“For me, it's important to give viewers more questions than answers," Cathey said. "I have an entire ever-growing list of phenomenal artists that I'm influenced by, and some of the main inspirations for this exhibition was maps, sea charts, topography, memory, images of the cosmos and the way light hits clouds.”

Cathey said visual art gives people a way to ask questions and communicate in a confusing world.

“To the best of our knowledge, as long as there have been humans, there has been art. Art keeps us connected to our past and our history, while simultaneously allowing us to blaze new trails to new horizons.”

While in school, Cathey said he had a passion for doodling and was inspired by video games and graphic novels. He said it is important for artists to reference other cultural phenomena, like "Not all who wonder are lost" does.

Cathey also said he views art as a means of understanding what it means to be human.

"There are thoughts, ideas and feelings that transcend words," he said. "A person could argue that before we give our thoughts form in language, we see and we experience."

Katie Murray, director of the Orange County Arts Commission, said that Cathey's work can stand on its own and that it is inspiring.

“When you see the work in person, you could just stand there and stare at one piece for an hour and continue to see different things,” she said. "There's a ton of movement and texture and I just keep telling everybody they need to come see it in person because screens don’t do it justice.”

Cathey’s art has appeared at other galleries in the past, including the FRANK Gallery in Chapel Hill.

“Everybody has been excited to see the progression of Austin's work,” Natalie Knox, the gallery manager at FRANK, said. “We're looking forward to seeing what he keeps creating in the future.”

More information on upcoming events and showings related to the arts can be found on the Orange County Arts Commission’s website.


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