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Exhibit defies genres and expectations

“The people I know paint in oils.”

They are richer, deeper; they have an inner glow, according to artist Catherine Walker. That glow can be seen in much of Walker’s artwork.

An exhibit of Walker’s work launches Friday with an opening reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Contemporary Art Exchange in downtown Washington.

As an East Carolina University School of Art professor, Walker teaches drawing, but as an artist, her work can’t be confined to one medium. Drawings, lithographs, linoleum prints, oils, mixed-media — some pieces are defined by bold colors and whimsical subjects; others by near-overwhelming detail in stark black and white. All of it defies expectation; what one immediately sees isn’t all there is to get.

“I like adding some weird, little personal thing to the pieces that make it more meaningful for me,” Walker said.

In one work, it’s a crafts project made by her child inserted into a large, incandescent oil painting; in another, a ceramic chicken, a gift from a friend, is painted atop a table scene at downtown Greenville restaurant Starlight Café.

Roosters have a strong presence, as do rooms — a living room, kitchen, the empty Starlight dining room.

“I do tend to pick a thing and stick to it. Or I used to do it until recently. I started teaching in Italy in 2013, and that’s what made me do the landscapes,” Walker said.

The landscapes are scenes of the Tuscany town where ECU has a permanent campus and students study for 10-weeks at a time. Here, detail is astonishing — multiple vignettes embedded in a larger whole, perhaps missed at first glance, discovered on closer study. The same can be said for her lino-prints. The process involves rolling ink over intricately cut linoleum to create a mirror-image print of the cuts.

“Picasso did some good ones — he did some lino-prints, so it’s a legitimate medium,” Walker laughed.

Friday’s reception is open to the public. Contemporary Art Exchange is located at 127 E. Main St., Washington.