UPDATED:The N.C. House is now part art gallery. House leaders added eight landscape paintings to the gray brick walls to give the chamber a little more life.
From just the right angle, when Wilmington Republican Rick Catlin stands to speak, it looks like he's back on the shoreline for a sunrise on Coquina beach. And likewise, state Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, an Apex Republican, can appear on the serene shoreline of Cherokee Lake.
The paintings are part of J. Chris Wilson's "Murphy to Manteo an Artist's Scenic Journey." Wilson is a Georgia native who moved to North Carolina in 1974. He served until 2012 as a faculty member at Barton College in Wilson.
Rep. Justin Burr, an Albemarle Republican, helped spur the effort to display the paintings hung Friday. He said he saw the big portrait of George Washington in the old House chambers at the Capitol and wanted to do the same in the new chambers. His plan to put paintings of leaders like Washington and an Abraham Lincoln fell through, but Wilson's art, which is also on display at the Museum of History and the State Library, is a good substitute. "We kind of felt it added something to the chamber," he said. "We just went with scenery of North Carolina to show off the state a little bit."
Wilson is painting 100 landscapes from places within 10 miles of U.S. 64, a highway that runs the length of the state. The largest is a nearly 16-foot by 7-foot painting of the beach sunrise from Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It took a dozen people to get through the front door and into the second-floor chamber.
Denise Weeks, the House clerk, said the idea of hanging art on the walls is not new but House Speaker Thom Tillis is the first to make it happen. (Photo: Rep. John Blust works from his desk, with new J. Chris Wilson paintings on the wall behind him.)