Because of its resonance, giving the gift of art may be one of the most personal gestures you can make. Perhaps a painting or photograph reminds you of someone, aligning with their style, spirit or personality. Or perhaps it is a functional piece of ceramic that they can use in their daily life. We scoped out two local galleries to highlight art you might consider giving this season.
McGuffey’s Main Gallery has been converted into a holiday shop with handmade ornaments, cards and gift tags lending a splash of festive red and a dusting of white to complement the art displayed on tables and walls. The annual Holiday Show runs throughout December and includes the work of nearly all member artists.
Rebekah Wostrel is a ceramics artist and sculptor whose earthenware cups, bowls, trays and porcelain plates and pendants are part of the show. She has been making pottery since she was 4 years old, when she lived in Gloucester, Massachusetts, next door to a Finnish potter she describes as “a ceramic cowboy.” Wostrel likes to continuously try new things, and her work runs the gamut from sound sculpture collaborations with her composer husband, to enlarged porcelain pacifiers, handmade porcelain plates and earthenware bowls with hand-drawn rock walls. “Porcelain is very finicky,” she says. “Everything’s a dance. Red clay is more forgiving. I’d lived in Virginia long enough [that] I had to use the red clay,” she says, having moved to Charlottesville 11 years ago. The rock wall motif on the earthenware, she explains, is her Virginia and New England roots mixing.
Another McGuffey artist, Jeannine Barton Regan, paints with encaustics, a heated mixture of pigment, beeswax and tree sap. “It’s a beautiful, organic medium that goes back thousands of years,” she says, citing the Egyptians and Greeks. “The resiliency of the medium is phenomenal.” Regan began her career as a watercolor painter because she was drawn to its “ethereal transparency.” But when she began exploring encaustic painting seven years ago she thought, “Here’s the transparency I’ve been looking for.”
Because of the nature of the medium, which requires heat, it’s impossible to paint en plein air. She gathers inspiration from being outdoors and then, “In the studio I try to recreate the feeling that I had, not so much the visual,” she says. “And that guides most of my work.” But beeswax has a mind of its own. “If it goes in one direction, I let it go there.”
Preempting the concern about the beeswax changing over time she says, “The temperature for melting the wax is around 200 degrees. There’s very little chance of change in the painting.” And the wax itself is impervious to tearing, insects, mold or light damage, which sometimes affect traditional paintings.
At Les Yeux du Monde the featured artist this month is John Borden Evans. Other artists’ work, including small watercolors by Suzanne Chitwood and Lincoln Perry, will be displayed on Sunday, December 18, and span an accommodating price range.
Evans, who began as an abstract painter, has been painting the landscape and cattle surrounding his house since 1980. He still paints like an abstract painter, he says, in that he’s most interested in composition and texture, less so in subject matter. Sometimes he begins by painting words or letting his grandchildren create the underpainting. Or he begins by painting “imaginary skies.” Some of these skies consist of large, circular stars, while others are tiny blue circles, as in “Lollipop Smoke,” the sky that took him three weeks to paint.
In one called “Starry Sheep” you can still see the faint words that came before the sky. They spell out the names of his two children: Eliza and Patrick. He then painted over the words to create sheep, and then the sheep became clusters of stars. He has even painted over some of his abstract paintings from early in his career. He has no fear or ego about painting over past work. “It’s fun to paint over old paintings,” he says. He works on several pieces at a time but each one takes about a year, from start to finish. “Then if you count painting over a painting, that’s 30 years,” he says, laughing. He paints in acrylic to explore the possibilities of texture, layering and sanding down to differentiate between landscape features. “I usually don’t have an idea of what it will be until I get to the end,” he says.
Art for sale
Holiday City Market
100 Water St., downtown Charlottesville
Saturdays through December 17
The Gift Forest
209 Monticello Rd.
Daily through December 24
McGuffey Annual Holiday Show
201 Second St. NW
Daily through December 31 (closed on holidays)
Les Yeux du Monde
841 Wolf Trap Rd.
December 18, and by appointment