Local couple has coffee table art book published

Cornelia and James Webster with their recently published book, “Society Conscious.”

Local couple has coffee table art book published
February 28
00:45 2019

By Judie Holcomb-Pack

Cornelia and James Webster admit right off that they are opposites: she’s the creative artist and free spirit, often working on several projects at one time; he’s the serious, former college football coach, who writes poetry. The combination works for them as they have been married for 45 years and still hold hands and look in each other’s eyes like newlyweds.

Cornelia grew up in Roxboro and attended A&T State University, Winston-Salem State University and the University of Florida. She received her master’s degree from the University of Kansas. James graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he played football, then went on to coach football at colleges across the country. As the “trailing spouse,” it was difficult for Cornelia to maintain a career as they moved about every four years.

When she was 26 years old, she started painting what she called “Sash Art,” painting designs on old wooden window frames. When she finished the first project, she told herself, “I will never do that again.” But she continued to paint frames and create unique art. When the couple lived in Denver, Colorado, they opened an art gallery to show her work. But James’ frequent moves always interrupted her art career. Cornelia said she used art to “occupy her time” while James coached football.

In the early 90s they moved to Winston-Salem and Cornelia continued to create art, including painting, collages and mixed media. In 2010 James saw an ad for a publisher looking for submissions. He had an idea for a book of Cornelia’s art and told her, “You should do this.” They contacted Mike Simpson of Empire Publishing, who looked at Cornelia’s art and agreed to work with them on a book project. They decided that the art needed narratives to accompany them and James nicknamed her art “his-pictorials” because each piece has an historical component or comment.

Some people say if you want to test the strength of your marriage, endure a home remodeling project. Cornelia and James said you should try writing a book together. The project began in 2011, but during the time they were working on it, Cornelia was hospitalized four times. Cornelia said, “We were pretty much pulled in opposite directions.” The project, they said, took “patience, understanding, forgiveness, creativity,” and was an emotional experience.

Cornelia had always made notes about the pieces she was working on and she drew from these to add a narrative to the book. She said that much of her art was created during Obama’s campaign for president and time he was in the White House. She said the energy she felt from Obama “… lit me up as an artist,” and several of her works are her reflections of the Obamas. She said some of her work mirrors “what everyone sees and what is under the radar.”

James writes poetry and some of his poetry accompanies Cornelia’s art in the book. James says, “I write from the heart,” and doesn’t edit; he writes what he’s feeling at that time and then he’s through with it. He seldom changes it after that.

“Society Conscious” was published by Empire Publishing in 2018. Mike Simpson, publisher, remarked, “Only rarely as a publisher do you encounter an author or artist whose work is so unexpected, so totally unique and creative that it fills you with awe. That was my experience in 2010 when I first met Cornelia Webster. Over the following eight years, as we worked to bring her book to perfection, my awareness of her abilities and prophetic insight has only grown.”

The book is unique in that it has to be turned one way and then another to read the poetry, narratives and notes, as well as to see the art from different angles. James said he hopes the art and narrative will “put some truths out there,” and that he believes it “touches on all parts of life.” He hopes readers will be strong enough to understand the range of emotions they will experience as they think about the meaning in the pictures and the accompanying notes.

Cornelia wants the book to inspire readers “to reflect on their life.” James wants the book to “make you think and get you off the fence.”

However you view the book, it will touch you emotionally when you least expect it and stay with you long after the book is closed.

“Society Conscious” was launched at the 2018 Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors. It is available on Signed copies are available from the authors by calling 336-287-5177.

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