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Yowell, Wrey win People's Choice at Art & the Library exhibit

People's Choice Award / 2-D -- Portrait by May Cao Wrey.

May 8, 2019 – Charlie Yowell and May Cao Wrey were the People's Choice winners in the annual Art & the Library exhibition last week.

Yowell won the 3-dimensional art award with his enormous stained glass fish, titled “Oceania,” and Wrey won with her portrait of a little girl.


Charlie Yowell was born in St. Louis. In the early 80's, he came to Chattanooga for the hang-gliding. He has lived in Dunlap ever since. Thirty years ago, he created his first 3-D wire sculptures and mobiles from coat hangers. He soon switched to brass rods, which did not rust, creating musical instruments which wiggled and bounced.

People's Choice Award / 3-D -- Oceania, by Charlie Yowell.

In the late 90's Yowell developed an original method to attach stained glass, geodes, glass “blobs,” and other objects to his moving brass sculptures. The result is a strong, light, colorful, and yet kinetic 3-D sculpture.

He also revels in bent glass, slumping sheets of stained glass in a homemade electric kiln, over a handcrafted mold or ceramic form.

When my work is going well, I feel alive, content, and constructive – as if I am putting the world as I see it into a way the world can see it. I create touchable, representational structures of animals or natural fantasy creatures. Some shimmy when tapped, others spin in a breeze, others seem to float sensuously in flickering candle or LED light.

I work in bright, tropical colors because I relish sharing my dramatic eye-catching side with the public. I also enjoy playing the durability of materials against their apparent fluidity and fragility. My dream is to ramp up my current work and make it huge. I really want to make a big impression. I want people to look at my work and feel sheer joy, and I want them to think, 'Wow, how did you do this?'”

Yowell has participated in a long list of juried shows. This year he has chosen to exhibit his 3-dimensional stained glass and brass sculpture of a fish. It is hollow, with 300 internal lights. The piece is balanced to pick up the slightest vibrations, so the fins and tail will wiggle. The piece is beautifully mounted on black granite, weatherproof and ready to go inside or out.

A patron casts a vote for Yowell's stained glass sculpture.


May Cao Wrey was born in China in 1944. She entered the Art Teacher’s College there at the age of 17 and studied art for four years.

After graduation, she was involved in design and painting in China for more than 20 years. In 1988, May came to the United States to engage in portrait painting. At the time of the 1986 Olympics, her personal studio was set up in Atlanta’s Cobb Galleria Mall.

I have come into contact with many people’s life stories,” Wrey said, reflecting back on her experience with a diversity of people and ethnic groups. “I inject my understanding, respect, sympathy, and love in my paintings. to make up for the defects of the original photos and to meet their requirements to the greatest extent. Some guests become friends and keep in touch for many years.”

Wrey says that portrait painting not only brings her economic income and friendship, but more importantly, “it brings me the most precious feelings in this life.”

May’s husband, Ronald W. Wrey, entered her life in 1997. She says that for more than 20 years he was her mentor, her soul, and her second life.

In 2015, at age 78, Mr. Wrey, a computer expert, retired. In the fall of 2016 he chose Dunlap as a temporary shelter for sickness. May says that her husband had a happy year here, “like going back to his childhood in Oregon.”

But in the end, he left – in June 2018.

After the cremation, May took him back home saying, “I can’t live without him. He is still by my side.” Refusing the invitation to move to live with two daughters, May decided to stay here. She continues to arrange her life, picking up the colors again, because “my Ron likes me to paint.”