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Artist Donna Falcone finds art and healing by following the ink to GMA Gallery

TIFTON — If it wasn’t for Lyme disease, said Donna Falcone, she never would have become an artist.

Her work is made with alcohol ink and tile as canvas. Using a small flame and a customized vacuum cleaner, Falcone creates vibrant images that are sometimes abstract and sometimes literal depictions flowers and natural scenes. On Sunday, September 16 the Georgia Museum of Agriculture held an opening reception for Falcone’s solo exhibit at the gallery. A selection of her original tiles were on display along with reproductions printed on large canvas and dinner plates. They have even been used to illustrate the book “A is for Azure,” an alphabet book by L.L. Barkat.

A table setting in the middle of the gallery featured her plates. From the ceiling rainbow polka dot beach balls were hung along with translucent ethereal fabric and up-sidedown floral umbrellas. All shifted in the air conditioning. Their movement echoed the motion of the liquid ink momentarily frozen on tile.

Falcone was impressed by the display. She handed over a box of tile to Museum and Gallery Curator, Polly Huff, and left. She said she never considered “how much of the show comes from the art, and how much of the show comes from the curator.”

“This is Polly,” she said. She found the exhibit to be “colorful and whimsical.”

In the atrium, Robert Gerhart, Vice President of Technology at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, introduced Falcone. He told the crowd that after a conversation with Falcone at the Northside Café, he knew she needed to meet Polly Huff. As soon as Huff saw the work, she was ready to give Falcone a show. Last November, the save the date cards were printed and Falcone would have her first exhibit.

“I never in a million years expected to have an exhibit,” she said.

Falcone shared with the crowd how she discovered alcohol ink.

Lyme disease left her in with chronic illness causing her 30 year journey in Early Childhood Education to come to an abrupt halt. It was 2009 and Falcone’s life was committed to recovery efforts and nothing else. The disease and loss of her career “was blowing me around like a leaf in the wind and I needed a place to land and I didn’t know where that was.”

Finally in 2015 she was having more good days

See INK, page 10A

Artist Donna Falcone, left, demonstrates using a small torch to light the ink for one of her pieces.

Shelby Evans/ The Tifton Gazette

than bad days. Falcone had a creative family that often encouraged her to make, but she refused. One day her sister sent her videos of artists using alcohol ink to paint. She was intrigued, but didn’t try it.

“I was not an artist,” she said, “that I knew of.”

Her sister didn’t give up and kept sending videos. One day she sent a video of an artist using fire to manipulate the ink. Then Falcone said excitedly, “I want to try that.” Her sister “wanted me to have something beautiful to engage with.”

After buying her first bottles of ink, she dug out leftover tiles anchoring the back of the closet and sat at the table surrounded by supplies, everything she needed to create, but she was stumped. “I didn’t know what to

do.” She remembered her former life, educating children and then teachers on how to engage them students, how to experiment and make learning fun.

She thought about what a child would do with the ink around her. She asked herself, “Don’t you know how to play?” After years of recovery, Falcone said, “I needed to remember how to play.”

She was captivated by how the ink moved across the tile. It slid smoothly and slowly over the surface. It had life. She kept adding colors and layers.

She was experimenting.

She was having fun. Falcone shared a photo of her first tile online and in a few minutes a friend sent her message to ask if it was for sale. She was shocked.

Every day afterward, she painted.

“Lyme disease, I learned, closed all kinds of doors for me, but alcohol ink opened a window.”

Falcone developed her own techniques for painting with ink. Using a small torch, she lit the ink which caused it to spread and in the process the edges of the ink would darken creating a hard outline. Then she saw other artists using straws and canned air to push the ink around tile.

But she found both to be exhausting and inefficient.

She took her own handheld vacuum that could push and suck air, and added a rubber hose, duct tape and piping tip to make her own tool. She uses it create patterns in the ink, splashes of thick grass and anything else she can think of. Creating her artwork continued her healing process, and she found that when tragedy struck, like shootings and attacks, her art helped her understand what she was feeling and why.

“Art helps me cope with things,” she said. Things both in her personal life and in the world. “If it hadn’t been for Lyme disease, I’ll tell you a fact,” she said, “that wouldn’t exist.” She pointed to the gallery, saturated with her colorful work.

“Was it fun? Did I love it?” She asked. “No. But did it change my life? I worked with what I had. You have to.

You have to follow the ink.”

Falcone’s exhibit will be runs through Jan. 19 at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture Gallery located at 1392 Whiddon Mill Road.

A tile by Falcone titled, “Green Rolling Hill Full Moon.”

Shelby Evans/ The Tifton Gazette

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