Newspaper Story

Bridge Haven benefit is latest showcase for Louisville artist
C.J. Fletcher.

The Courier-Journal
(March 15, 1998)

It SEEMS THAT everywhere she’s turned, C.J. Fletcher has met with success.

When she began dabbling in crafts about 10 years ago, the self-taught artist was deluged with orders for her Afro-centric dolls.

Since turning to painting four years ago, she has sold about 300 works.

Now she has an agent, a gallery in Nashville representing her work and a deal with JC Penney to market reproductions of her paintings.

And on March 28 she will be one of 67 artists donating table designs for a Bridgehaven benefit dinner featuring "60 Minutes" correspondent Mike Wallace.

Still, Caroline Joy Fletcher says she's not about to quit her day job as an administrative assistant in the city of Louisville's department of Inspection, Permits and Licenses.

But she is serious about her night job, having taken up painting "to fill that empty void in the evenings when I got home from work."

She works most evenings at her art side by side with her husband, painter Eugene Thomas, who is also involved in the benefit project for Bridgehaven, a Louisville facility for the mentally ill.

Their studio is their home, a turn-of-the-century cottage off St. Catherine Street in Old Louisville, where they have annual art sales that attract several hundred people.

It all started with the dolls. But when a University of Louisville professor wanted 300 of the small figures and another person ordered an entire Christmas tree decorated with them, it quit being quite so much fun.

"My fingers wore out and that's what's drove me to painting," said Fletcher.

It was a good move.

AN INDIANAPOLIS couple has bought nine of her paintings. Two are from her "Color of Music" series and will be a centerpiece in the theater room of the house that Terry and Roschelle-Major Banks are building.

The New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. bought a "Color of Music" painting and a print of an African woman "Stepping Out" from Fletcher to provide cultural diversity in the schools.

Painter Ann Stewart Anderson of Louisville bought a Fletcher painting of women in a field wearing colorful hats at one of the artist's first studio sales.

Anderson said she and her husband enjoy the paintings because it is so vibrant and full of pattern and color.

Fletcher recently received a $100 honorable mention for her work selected to be part of the 88th "Water Tower Annual," on view through April 19. This is Kentucky's oldest competitive juried art show and is considered by many to be a benchmark of having arrived.

Art and Images, an art gallery at the Bellevue Center Mall in Nashville, is representing her work year-round. And Fletcher has created her own virtual art gallery on the Internet. The address is: (Eugene Thomas's Fletcher's husband site is )

Fletcher said she is thrilled to be among the artists working on the Bridgehaven benefit dinner. The artists will honor the life and work of 67 famous artists, writers, composers, thinkers and scientists who made a cultural impact despite mental illness.

Fletcher chose American painter Georgia O'Keeffe. Fletcher's works resemble O'Keeffe's abstract close-ups of flowers.

Fletcher and Thomas have created a wire sculpture of a female artist for the table centerpiece and have produced eight small paintings in the style of O'Keefee. The paintings will be gifts from the artists to the diners at that table.

Fletcher, 49, is highly organized and confident of her creativity. She has a bachelor's degree from Jefferson Community college, with a major in interior design done through the University of Louisville.

"I always keep goals (in mind). I try to think a day ahead. I try to be proactive and not reactive," she said.

Painting is the medium in which she plans to continue.

"I could never stop painting. My patrons won't let me, said Fletcher. She said she feels an obligation to continue making art and to continue her professional growth in order to back up the art that her collectors often see as an investment.

"I think if I made this my only career, I think it would be fun," she said.

Her works have been shown at the Floyd County Museum in New Albany, Ind.; at the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville; at "Art Expo in Atlanta; at Actors Theatre of Louisville's annual African-American invitational exhibition; and at the Chicago Jazz Festival.

"I didn't know (painting) was going to be successful, Fletcher said, "God wants me to have it," she explained. "He wants me to teach."

DESPITE A LITTLE stage fright Fletcher, a native of Nashville, said she enjoys working with students and has given talks about using creativity to achieve success at Male and Central high schools, and in the Floyd County schools.

Fletcher said her most successful works are from the "Color of Music" series. She plans to continue that series until she has painted a musician on every instrument she can imagine, perhaps 100 works in all. The musicians are painted in a mosaic" of skin colors that is a metaphor for society.

"They are integrated patterns of color working together to create harmony, and that's what we must all concentrate on more," said Fletcher, "(on) diverse cultures working together to make this place a better place to live."