Capturing the beauty of nature by merging two art forms — watercolor and paper cutting— Palmyra native Joyce Yarbrough returns to the Alliance Art Gallery as the featured guest artist for May. She invites those who have long admired her paper cutting of butterflies, birds, and flowers into her watercolor world.

Paper cutting became Joyce’s profession, but watercolors never quite made an exit. She especially enjoys creating small 4x6 or 5x7 watercolor “souvenirs” when traveling.

“On vacation, I do scenes. I bring a sketch pad. Watercolors are so much easier than pastels,” she said.

Preferring realism to an impressionistic style, she easily transitions between the exactitude of paper cutting and the photographic realism of scenes from nature. Yet that realism carries a touch of soft gentleness feathered into it. “Nature is the source of my inspiration,” she admits. She lets the subject dictate the medium: “For me, it has always been to look at what I am doing. Will it be a cutting? A painting? A pastel? It is all about how that subject matter strikes me.”

One day, working a show, doing on-site pastel portraits, someone suggested she try doing silhouettes. Intrigued, she began. People lined up, and surgical scissors in hand, she never looked back.

In fact, since Second Saturday occurs the day before Mother’s Day, the Alliance Gallery realized parents may want Joyce to create a silhouette of their son or daughter as a gift. Joyce has agreed to be available to create paper cut portraitures for $40 ($20 for a 2nd copy) of your child from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 13. It can be immediately matted to be ready for a Mother’s Day gift.

The Alliance Art Galery's featured member artist, Brenda Benson, also cuts paper — but in a very different way. Her intricate compositions consist of complex cut, colored, folded squares assembled into a large brilliantly constructed grid—in a shadow box-like format that draws you into their story.

A Hannibal native, Truman University art graduate, teacher for 26 years, and mother of four, Brenda and her family went, in 2006, to see the Dale Chihuly blown glass exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Seeing glass, art, sculpture, architecture, plants, water—all intertwined into exquisite beauty — she hardly wait to get home to launch a wholly new form of art.

Today, combining watercolor, paper, intricate cuttings, folding, she opens doors to a new world, not only for herself but for those who simply love her work. Recently she won third place in a national competition held annually by the Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, where her work was featured, and she has had two pieces accepted into the Watercolors USA exhibition, one of which took the top prize of $3,000 earlier this month.

The Alliance Art Gallery invites you to enjoy its opening reception honoring Joyce Yarbrough’s and Brenda Benson’s work on Saturday, May 13, from 5 to 8 p.m. This reception coincides with Hannibal’s Second Saturday Gallery Night.