About - Philip Link

I was born in Reidsville, North Carolina on January 28, 1948. I grew up in a household where my parents, Phil and Peggy Link, were both gifted amateur visual artists. Also, my older sister Janet, had an early and natural gift in drawing and painting. The sight and smell of art being produced all around me drew me into a desire to both emulate and create art of my own. This early interest and desire was subsequently encouraged in my early elementary school experience. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Wright, was so impressed with one of my Christmas family scenes, that she had it framed and hung it above the mantel in her home. She invited our family over to see it displayed, and I was quite overwhelmed!

The atmosphere in our home was conducive to artistic activity, as my parents always seemed to have something creative underway through the years. My mother continued to paint, but branched into other media with enthusiasm, as my father painted, took photographs and began to write fiction with greater and greater fervor. My sister added photography to a continuing interest in drawing and painting. I did my first oil paintings at about the age of 10. I also began to develop an interest in photography. By the time I was 12, I was learning basic darkroom techniques. Photography eclipsed my interest in drawing and painting until I went to college (UNC-CH). In my second year (UNC-G), I began to study art seriously, and photography gradually gave way to drawing, painting and figure sculpture. After graduating with a BFA in Studio Art in 1970, I served two years as a Conscientious Objector, as I was and remain a Pacifist. Following that commitment, I drifted career wise, mainly due to untreated alcoholism. Eventually, I decided to return to school in an attempt to start over, receiving an MFA in Painting from UNC-G in 1976. As I was still not sober, this attempt failed. By 1980, with my life in free fall, I now thought that a serious relationship and perhaps marriage would stabilize me. I met Tamara in November of ’80 and we married, after a move to Florida, in October 1981. Between my active alcoholism and my closeted sexuality, there could be no hope for our marriage, but I was of course incapable of any honest or selfless reflection whatsoever. Again, I attempted to start an artistic career, this time by participating in sidewalk and street festival art shows. That didn’t work out either. My wife and I moved back to Winston-Salem, NC in the spring of 1983, and I continued my gradual slide downwards into the alcoholic abyss. However, amazingly and thankfully, my desire to paint continued and actually flowered during these years, up and into the early 90’s. Art teaching opportunities in Winston-Salem no doubt had much to do with this, beginning with classes in drawing, painting and sculpture at the Sawtooth Center for Visual Art from the mid-80’s. Also, from 1985-90 I taught classes in drawing and painting at NCSA, in the School of Design and Production. There were also two years teaching Art at Governor’s School West, at Salem College. Another factor worth mentioning is that each day when I painted, I never drank before or during the period of painting. These bits of “sober” activity, virtually everyday for several years running in the mid to late 80’s, were, I realized in retrospect, momentary reprieves from a hellish inner existence of dishonesty, pain and denial. That was Grace, though I couldn’t recognize it at the time.

I began working full-time at the NC Zoological Park as an exhibit designer on June 1, 1991. Once more, still drinking and closeted, and seeing this opportunity as yet another (my) way to straighten myself out, I unwittingly began a “new” chapter in my life. Nothing in me changed however, and I was soon starting each work day at 7 a.m. with a miserable hangover. On August 15th, Tamara asked me to leave. She had supported and endured me far too long, and now that I had an adequate income of my own, it was time.

By the Grace of God, I got sober on June 15,1992. After a one day relapse, I got sober for good (I pray) on August 15, 1992. I continued to paint in my spare time, and had a one person art exhibition at the Randolph County Arts Guild Gallery in the fall of ’92. However, between the press of often difficult work and an active recovery, as well as a somewhat unsettled personal life, art activity gradually lost its centrality to my life. I painted in spurts, sometimes significantly, but continuity eluded me. Our work at the Zoo was sometimes quite creative, and there would be long periods of artificial rock building that cultivated sculpturesque and painterly realizations on a massive scale. For all that, I never entirely lost my interest in my personal work, and even progressed in areas of non-objective abstraction that had totally eluded me in earlier years. At around midpoint in my 24 years of Zoo work, I decided it was time for a change of direction, yet another attempt at a career in art. I went back to school at UNC-G, this time to earn a license to teach Art in the public schools. I spent 2 years during my spare time pursuing a degree in Art Education via Type A licensure. I achieved my goal, including student teaching at both the elementary and high school level. After all that, recognizing that starting over at age 52 at the bottom of the career ladder was none too attractive a proposition, I demurred. With renewed resolve, I determined that I would remain at the Zoo until retirement. And I did, retiring at age 66 on June 1, 2014.

Since then, I have gradually geared up my creative activities, primarily with painting in acrylics. Also the occasional watercolor, plus at least two sculpture projects in the works, one of them figurative. I regularly read and study books and articles on art and artists with great interest. I fortunately have a small but excellent studio behind my home. There, I can work to the accompaniment of stimulating (loud) music to my heart’s content. Whatever gallery and exhibition activity may hold for me in the future, I am really pleased that I will be able to maintain an abiding online presence, as I hopefully move forward in my artistic journey. Art has finally, along with my Faith and my Recovery, assumed its rightful position in my life, and for that I am extremely grateful!