Remembering Peg Redd

By Page H. Gifford

Margaret Page Hawthorne, known to everyone as Peg, recently passed away at the age of 95. She was a long-time member of the Fluvanna Art Association and resident of Fork Union as well as Fluvanna County’s first art teacher. She was gracious, charming, and a mentor to many, and her talent exceeded the normal boundaries of good art by creating her signature style.

A native Virginian, born in Kilmarnock on the Northern Neck, she was exposed to a variety of arts, including dance and music but it was drawing and painting that garnered most of her attention early in life. Her children recalled that when she was in school and later college, she would doodle and sketch the margins of her notebooks which evolved into elaborate pencil drawings.

In 1943, she attended Westhampton College at the University of Richmond, majoring in chemistry. During her first semester, she took a painting class.

“Back then many of her paintings featured elements that told a story, anchoring a piece in reality,” said her son Coleman Charlton. Attending college during and after WorldWar II had a profound effect on her work. During an exhibit, the majority of work by students featured bowls of fruit and landscapes. Redd displayed a colorful mushroom cloud on a small canvas, making a statement faculty couldn’t ignore. It prompted conversation among the professors regarding “the future in the shadow of the atomic bomb.”

In 1944, during her second year of college, Dean May Keller met with Redd and her mother to discuss her grades. Due to the limitations of her high school curriculum, she was only pulling B’s and C’s. Redd’s mother felt this was acceptable considering Redd’s lot in life was to acquire social skills a wife and mother would need.

Dean Keller refused to accept that excuse and felt Redd was capable of more and could get A’s and B’s. Keller, known as “the iron dean,” had plans to make Westhampton more than a finishing school by giving women equal opportunities in education. Redd lived up to Dean Keller’s expectations, graduating with a double major in chemistry and art.

Post-graduation, she became a traveling art teacher in Richmond, where she became friends with fellow art teacher Anne Charlton Miller who introduced her to her brother Charlie Charlton. They married in 1949 and moved to Fork Union.

Charlton had begun his corporate career with Virginia Electric Power Company. Meanwhile, she had four children, three boys and a girl: Mo, Coleman, Page, and Paul. She pushed for the arts in the county, becoming the first to teach art. She also taught algebra and sometimes chemistry and biology. Sometime later, she got her master’s in art education and Charlton got an engineering degree.

During the 1970s, she became a full-time art teacher in Albemarle County, supervising programs in elementary schools, ending her career as a traveling art teacher. In 1979, Charlie Charleton died and at 53, Redd began to examine her future without him. With her children grown and after 30 years of teaching, Redd knew it was time for a change. She traveled, and worked various jobs but eventually returned to her art. In 1988, she married Bill Redd and they spent time traveling. But in 2000 he died.

Over the years, Redd had explored a variety of mediums, including woodcuts and block printing which she used to make patterns on her living room curtains. She became active in local, regional, and state organizations, including the Fluvanna Art Association where she had often taught classes, including an introductory class in oil pastel. She won numerous awards and was represented in many private and corporate collections.

Her colors were rich, bright, and bold, and her style was influenced by masters like Henri Matisse. There wasn’t anything Redd wouldn’t paint, from landscapes to interiors, from figures to still life, anyone and anything -nothing went unnoticed. Her specialty was montages and she also did a series of paintings called A Visit With An Artist Series. These paintings highlighted her cleverness and creativity in telling stories with art. Among them was A Visit With Cezanne, featuring Redd and her daughter Page sitting with Cezanne in his garden. They had tea with Mary Cassatt, visited with Edward Hopper, and spoke with VanGogh and Degas in an art exhibit. It had been 20 years of being an exhibiting artist that made her realize her passion for art.

Redd once said, that “to experience the magic of the art process is the basic motivation for my works, and some of that magic strongly affects the image. My ultimate goal is to honestly communicate my emotions, ideas, thoughts, and feelings through my art.”

Of her four children, Paul and Page inherited the same passion their mother had for art and a similar style. To see the vast array of work by Peg Redd, her family is having an exhibit of her work this summer from July 1-31 at the Fluvanna County Public Library. There will be a reception on July 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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