Sweet Briar Creates II: Artists revealed

| January 25, 2013
“Iconic View,” oil, by Sheila Alexander, depicts New Zealand’s Ruahine Mountains.

Community art shows such as “Sweet Briar Creates II” are great for providing plenty of I-didn’t-know-you-could-do-that moments. The show is a faculty and staff invitational art exhibition that opens with a reception at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 in Benedict Gallery. It will remain on view through March 24.

Sweet Briar galleries director Karol Lawson and registrarial assistant Nancy McDearmon organized the exhibition. With Gloria Higginbotham from development and Cyndi Fein from the dean’s office, they formed a panel to select works by more than a dozen College staff and faculty members. The artists and their works represent offices spanning the campus and an array of media.

Crystalline-glazed ceramics by Tony Lilly.

So it is discovered that a poet takes fabulous photographs and crafts artisan furniture, a housekeeper is also a jeweler, a Spanish teacher sculpts metal into fine objects, and a Ukrainian-born pianist from a long line of artists is inspired to paint the vibrant colors of her motherland.

Some have been at their craft for years, even made a living at it. For assistant professor of English Tony Lilly, art is a newfound delight. About 18 months ago he took Joe Monk’s hand-building ceramics class. Soon he was throwing pots on a wheel, but when he saw crystalline glazes at a North Carolina pottery show, he was truly hooked. Now he experiments with dozens of glaze recipes and marvels at the colors and unexpected crystal patterns that emerge from the kiln.

“It’s beautiful, that’s the first thing,” Lilly says of ceramics’ appeal. “And there’s a great balance between control and fate.”

Crystalline, more so than other glazes, allow the artist some say over the outcome, but only so much, he explains. You have to let go and let the crystals do what they’re going to do.

Grants officer Sheila Alexander finds that paintings also can hold surprises and that each one teaches lessons in the process of discovery. Her “Iconic View” depicting New Zealand’s Ruahine Mountains is one such image that visitors can expect to see in the show. It is inspired by the ridges she could see from her home when she lived there. Alexander is naturally drawn to traditional scenes, but tried experimenting with a more contemporary look.

“From [Sweet Briar art professors] John [Morgan] and Laura [Pharis], I’ve learned to take some risks and try some different things. It’s evolving. I’ve had people say that even a beautiful painting of a scene is rather boring and that they like the exploratory nature of looking at a contemporary painting.”

Yet as she worked, she wanted to stay within her ability. One day, she’ll try again to capture the scene more completely — the one she remembers with a touch of homesickness.

Admission to the exhibit is free. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, contact Karol Lawson at [email protected] or (434) 381­6248.

Jennifer McManamay


Category: Art Galleries, Uncategorized