“The root of my inspiration—pun intended—is firmly planted in the natural world,” says local artist Sam Gray. “When I’m feeling crazy, the best medicine is to go into the woods and be with the mosses, trees, herbs, fungi and critters,” she says. “I find a lot of magic in that connection.”
That connection between the natural world and the human soul is what Gray explores in the paintings and drawings of her premiere solo show, “Gaean Reveries,” currently on view in the McGuffey Art Center’s Sarah B. Smith Gallery. The work “is characterized by feminist, witchy, natural motifs that viewers will take in as they will,” she says.
For instance, there’s a painting of a pink uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervix intertwined with pink roses on a blue background. Another painting is of a grapefruit, pulled in half, juice dripping from the wedges still enclosed in the pith as a snake curls around it. In yet another, a vulva emerges from the center of a rose.
When Gray creates, she doesn’t anticipate how viewers might react to her work—“that would dilute my own creativity,” she says—and so she focuses on channeling what comes from within her, or through her, and it’s developed into an individual style she calls “anthro-botanical surrealism.”
Gray especially didn’t anticipate how viewers might react to paintings of vaginas and uteruses, and she worried for a moment that the work might be censored. But that wasn’t the case, and gallery-goers have been supportive of the work. She’s even overheard a few comments about parents wanting to take their daughters to “the vagina exhibit.”
Gray doesn’t want to tell viewers of her work what to see, or feel, but she’ll share a small seed of suggestion: “I hope that my work helps encourage people to slow down and be curious so that they can see magic around themselves more often,” and perhaps “learn to apply their eyes in new ways to the world around them.”
August Gallery Listings
Annie Gould Gallery 121B S. Main St., Gordonsville. An exhibition of industrial and marine wooden sculpture by Alex Gould; and a show of work from more than 25 artists, including Donna Ernest and Barbara Venerus.
FF Chroma Projects 103 W. Water St. “Colorforms,” acrylic, organic paintings by Iranian-born UVA student Hasti Kahlili. 5-7pm.
FF CitySpace Art Gallery 100 Fifth St. NE. “Roseberry’s Charlottesville,” a photography exhibit of rarely seen snapshots from the Ed Roseberry collection. 5:30-7:30pm.
FF C’ville Arts Cooperative Gallery 118 E. Main St., Downtown Mall. “On the Bright Side,” a jewelry art exhibition by Stephen Dalton. 6-8pm.
Darden School of Business 100 Darden Blvd., UVA. “Small Graces,” an exhibition of photographs of UVA’s Pavilion Gardens.
FF Fellini’s 200 Market St. “A Study of Pets in Pencil and Paint,” an exhibition by Maggie Stokes. 5:30-7pm.
FF Firefly 1304 E. Market St. “Finds and Designs,” an exhibition of textured, organic art by Christopher Kelly. 4-9pm.
The Fralin Museum of Art at UVA 155 Rugby Rd. “In My Room: Artists Paint the Interior 1950-Now”; “20th Century Still Lifes from the Permanent Collection,” featuring the work of Picasso, Braque and Carrie Mae Weems, among others; and “Reflections: Native Art Across Generations.”
FF The Garage 100 E. Jefferson St. “Afterimage,” a mixed-media exhibition by Caroline Nilsson. 5:30-7:30pm.
FF Java Java Cafe 421 E. Main St., Downtown Mall. “Source Unknown,” paintings by Steve Keach that speculate on unknowable elements of reality. 5-6pm.
Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection 400 Worrell Dr. “Experimental Beds,” a collection of etchings by Judy Watson.
FF Les Yeux du Monde 841 Wolf Trap Rd. “Summertime…,” featuring work in acrylics, oils and other mediums by Anne Chesnut, Richard Crozier, Sarah Boyts Yoder and others. 1-5pm.
McGuffey Art Center 201 Second St. NW. “Gaean Reveries,” a multimedia, surrealistic exhibition from Sam Gray, in the Sarah B. Smith Gallery; “McGuffey Members’ Summer Group Show,” colorful multimedia works from members of the gallery, in the Downstairs South Hall Gallery and Upstairs North and South Hall Galleries; and The Incubator Show’s “Brood” in the North Hall First Floor Gallery. Through August 19.
FF Milli Coffee Roasters 400 Preston Ave., Ste. 150. “Dimensions and Dreamscapes,” an exhibition of oil paintings by Scott Marzano. 7-10pm.
FF Mudhouse 213 W. Main St., Downtown Mall. “UTOPIA,” a multimedia expressionist exhibition by Adam Martin Disbrow. 6-8pm.
FF New City Arts Initiative 114 Third St. NE. “Cville People Everyday,” a photography exhibit by Eze Amos. 5-7:30pm.
The Salad Maker 300 E. Market St. “Exploring the Bounds of Digital Art,” an exhibition of richly colored work by Martin Phillips.
Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital 500 Martha Jefferson Dr. “Luminous Landscapes,” featuring work by impressionist artist Lee Nixon. Opens Aug. 14.
Shenandoah Valley Art Center 122 S. Wayne Ave., Waynesboro. An exhibition of Gene Provenzo’s work in the Cabell/Arehart Gallery; the Gerry Coe Memorial Exhibit in the Hallway Gallery; and an interpretation of the theme blue by Art Center members in the Member’s Gallery.
FF Spring Street Boutique 107 W. Main St., Downtown Mall. “Impressions of Nature,” an exhibition of paintings by Jane Goodman. 6-8pm.
FF Studio IX 969 Second St. SE. “Seasons of Light: A Kinetic Experience,” an interactive, multi-disciplinary art installation created by youth in the Computers4Kids program and Golara Haghtalab. 5-8pm.
Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian-Universalist 717 Rugby Rd. “Portraits and Ankara Patterns,” featuring paintings and collage by Uzo Njoku. Opens Aug. 5, 11:30am.
FF VMDO Architects 200 E. Market St. A series of drawing by Deborah Ku. 5:30-7:30pm.
FF First Fridays is a monthly art event featuring exhibit openings at many downtown art galleries and additional exhibition venues. Several spaces offer receptions.