Second annual Artists’ Studio Tour boasts more artists

By Page H. Gifford

The second annual self-guided Artist’s Studio Tour will take place on October 14, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Organizer of the event Diane Wilkin is excited about this year’s crop of artists. Over 25 artists are participating in the event.

There will be an eclectic mix of styles and mediums from paper mâché sculpture to watercolor painting, to collage, stained glass, oils, mosaics, and much more.

The tour also gives visitors a different insight into the artists and their creations by seeing them through the lens of the artists themselves. Visitors will see the end product, such as Mike McGurk’s pastel portraits, capturing the realism and essence of his subjects or Janie Prete’s ethereal abstract watercolors, or Wayne Caine’s beautiful and flawless stained-glass pieces, Micheal Harrison’s unique yet useful ceramics or Carol Sorber’s flame-worked glass. But visitors on this year’s tour will also experience firsthand the journey from inception to its final stages. Like any work of art, it is the work behind the scenes that is seldom known or seen and lends personal recognition for the onlooker.

Some of the artists on the tour shared part of the journeys, setting the scene for the next phase when visitors see their work. Duffy Dillinger, a Fluvanna Art Association member, is an artist who indulges her creative mind by making one-of-a-kind paper mâché sculptures,  using discarded polystyrene as the core,

“It is an investigation in form, balance, positive and negative shapes, color, texture, and conceptual meaningfulness. Many of the creative experiences and “ah ha” moments I have had, come into play while I am making a piece. It’s a very personal game one plays with ideas and memories, plus symbols, both personal and universal,” she said.

She adds that she chooses to be resourceful with what most people view as garbage.

“It’s my approach to the environmental crisis as well as a true preference for art that is direct, not fussy or perfect in the traditional sense, though I love fine craftsmanship and admire realism and or traditional aesthetics as much as anyone.”

Early on she discovered that a wonderful and expressive sculpture or wall relief can be made from inexpensive, non-toxic materials at her dining room table.

“I don’t have to go to a foundry and cast metal or a marble carving studio to justify myself as an artist. The results are sturdy, supremely lightweight, and exciting. I hope collectors can appreciate those aspects. My themes are rooted in a love of nature, a sense of humor about bugs, and concerns for humanity.”

 Kyle Lucia and Johannah Willsey are co-owners of Phoenix Handcraft, a husband-and-wife design studio bringing the ancient arts of blacksmithing and mosaics to a contemporary audience. Phoenix Handcraft specializes in handmade works in metal, mosaic, and wood.

“Individually and together in collaboration, we create custom works of art, furniture, and architectural railing. We also produce a line of functional and decorative retail products,” said Willsey.

Kyle’s style is clean and straightforward. His goal is to use traditional blacksmithing techniques to create folds, connections, and shapes that reflect modern needs and design aesthetics. Johannah’s mosaic work is intricate and centered on color and texture. She creates hand-cut designs inspired by the natural world in both artistic and functional pieces.

“We are inspired by combining our mediums in new ways drives our most recent work.” They moved to Fluvanna two years ago when they found a home on the property with room for both studios. Since moving into their new studios, they have found more time to collaborate and push the boundaries of the work they create in new ways. “The natural world is always another source of inspiration in our work. We live and work on 10 wooded acres where we’re converting parts of the lawn to native wildflowers. We’re enjoying getting to know the local ecology and letting those relationships show up in our work,” she added.

Marcie Stahl, also another Fluvanna Art Association member, creates collages, and mixed media. She works with paper, ink, acrylics, and gears. Marcie also enjoys steampunk and fantasy. She says her artwork is inspired by the beauty around us, the beautiful countryside, people, and animals, all created with much love, time, and attention to detail.

This is just a fraction of the artists on the tour, Susan Edginton’s colored pencil work and Susan Lang’s oils are must-see. Also a must-see are Linda Staiger’s and Lyndsay Notlting’s impressionistic landscapes, Windy Payne’s charming acrylics, Cyndi Mylynne’s delicate abstracts, Blair Barbour’s offbeat paintings, Sandra Hopkins’ baskets and Mary Jane Cather’s fiber art. One might call Eileen Butler an artist’s artist who engages in a multitude of mediums including mosaics, drawing, painting, collage, and even tie-dye. Butler’s mosaics are functional works of art, added to furniture and other decorative pieces. Like Duffy Dillinger, Butler learned to create from things leftover in the environment and to recreate from things that already exist.

“I got used to making things as a small child. My parents were early DIY champions, removing walls, using scrap wood to tile the playroom floor, colored glass insets into the ceiling for lighting a dark hallway, and hauling boulders from the beach to build steps. It became a habit and now it’s my life,” said Butler, who uses her spaces as her canvases.

Retired from 40 years of teaching art, Butler says she has the time to alter, replace, reconstruct, and remove ceilings, windows, and walls to control the space and light making it balanced and harmonic in her homes.

“I alter the color and texture of the spaces I live and work in. I move earth and rocks, plants, and trees to enjoy the visual serenity of my surroundings. I seek the comfort of the soul and the body these ways,” she said. “My two and three-dimensional art expresses the joy of color and material, fluidity, permanence, and solidity. I am leaving my mark on fabrics, canvas, floors, walls, the earth, and the minds of the people who experience my little world.” This will be something for visitors to see.

Jeff Bland, another Fluvanna Art Association member, will be on the tour again this year. His unusual wood pieces serve not only decorative purposes but functional as well, such as mirrors.

“My live edge mirrors and some of my wood-turned pieces are popular. I received lots of compliments about my pieces.” Like his fellow artist Jim Wilkin and other woodworkers, Jeff says it’s all about working with the hands. “I like working with my hands, wood is abundant and there are a lot of unique wood grains that finish beautifully in my final pieces.”

After spending his entire career in a left-brained profession, he feels “blessed in retirement to be able to engage his right brain with my creative ideas and thoughts finally coming to life.”

“I enjoy art inspired by nature; art that is out of the ordinary, unusual, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.”

Karen Bowles enjoys oil painting in an Impressionist style.

“I’m drawn to nature and constantly in awe of all the amazing colors, light, and shapes we see when we step outside, the way light sprinkles through the trees, and seeing sunshine dancing on the tops of ponds, etc.,” she said. “It’s fun and challenging to try to paint these things. Life on the farm lends itself to an endless number of subjects, and I feel like I want to capture them all on canvas. I consider myself an artist in training taking classes weekly from a phenomenal master-artist at a studio in Richmond.” She adds that she is excited and honored to be in the company of talented artists who are on tour throughout the county.

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