Catching up with Emily Andress


“There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.”— Gene Wilder

That is how Emily Andress, artist and gallery owner of Awaken Gallery in Mt. Holly, has always lived. As long as she can remember, she has been a person with artistic creativity and ability. Andress grew up in a creative family, and an entire career has been centered around art.

When she was 7 years old, her class visited the Guggenheim Museum in New York, where she came across Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” painting. She can still see it in front of her, and the way it captivated her, to this day. She stood in front of the piece, got lost in the painting, separated from the class, and security had to go find her. That day she declared to her mother she was going to be an artist. Her mother said, “Great! Let’s make that happen.”

Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” (1913)

Her mother was a visionary; she came from a family of remarkable people, but she did things like flipping houses and creating open floor plans before there were terms for it. “She was a fun, interesting, and very imaginative person. You were never bored talking to her,” Andress says of her late mother.

Andress did very well as an artist painting with one style, but after a while she grew tired of it, and felt stuck in a box. But she grew and evolved and now paints in a variety of different styles.  “The only limitations are the ones you put on yourself,” said Andress.

When searching for a space for her gallery and art studio, Andress actually put the city of Monroe in the search engine, but it autocorrected to Mount  Holly. She had never even heard of Mt. Holly, and likes to think that the building was waiting for her. When Andress bought the building in Mount Holly which now houses Awaken Gallery, all it was back then was a brick box. She likes to think of this building as a metaphor…It’s truly magical!

Andress has always encouraged people to be open. The gallery logo even has meaning. The blue represents wings,  but also lungs for taking a cool, deep breath. The lines are the torus energy field of our planet and also of ourselves. The capital ‘A’ and lower-case ‘w’ are the first two letters of Awaken but they also are the Greek Letters for Alpha and Omega.

The main thing Emily wants to get across is to follow your bliss. In the art world there may be rejection, and it is categorically subjective, but that is why it is important to remain true to you.

Andress says that there is so much time where artists are working alone, and it is so important to bring other artists into your sphere, which they do at Awaken Gallery. On Thursdays a group of artists meets at the gallery to push each other, collaborate and inspire. “We celebrate everyone’s success. It’s key,” says Andress.

The gallery has a specific goal. The work that is represented has to have a message to open up discussions about how we can learn from the past to make for a better future.

The Pandora series is a series of paintings challenging a model of a different race, gender, or ethnicity, to ponder what they would do if they were given Pandora’s box, but told they could not open it. Andress came up with the series to explore how the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we see the world and how we move forward differently.

Her desire is for artists to be fulfilled in their work, and for them to open themselves up to all they have within them creatively.  Andress also challenges them to use their talents to explore what makes them the same. This is to create a dialogue, through the work, with anyone that views it.

The gallery is celebrating their 4th anniversary opening on March 25, 2022. The artist that will be featured that night is Rex Ritarita. This will be the artist’s first gallery feature. Ritarita turned 50 a few months ago, and his work will be reflective of his life with 10 different paintings of stories of Love and Acceptance.

New works by Emily Andress, Luis Ardila, Diane Pike, Christine Kosiba, and Andy Smith will be featured as well.

The opening coincides with The Art of Mount Holly: an evening of events in Historic Downtown Mount Holly. The city of Mount Holly is known for its collaborative efforts. The streets will be full of music, highlighting the arts, and even Summit Beer Shop will be featuring the art of craft beer. Andress says, “When the water is high, all boats rise.” And that is the spirit of Awaken Gallery and the supportive town of Mount Holly.

March 25, 2022 – June 30, 2022

Reception and Unveiling: Friday, March 25, 2022 | 6 – 9 PM

107 W Central Ave, Mount Holly, North Carolina 28120

Contact Info: 704-560-4463

Nicole Rogers is a professional photographer and writer located in Belmont.