Despite the heat, many braved the outdoors to experience the art and culture of downtown Fredericksburg. The galleries blasted their air conditioners to allow the crowd to browse the work comfortably, while others stayed outside and created their own masterpieces at Via Colori's Via Tutori Workshop.
This month, Liberty Town featured a Juried Show entitled “Plein Air.” All work submitted into the show had to be painted “in the open air.” The term “Plein Air” is usually used to describe the act of painting outdoors.
“It was interesting to see what the artists chose to paint, since they had to paint outside,” says Beth Sperlazza, who works at Liberty Town.
Many artists painted local scenes of the river and surrounding scenery.
“There were quite a few paintings of Belmont,” says Sperlazza, “and it’s great because each one is completely different.”
There are over 40 pieces in the show, all painted in the style of “Plein Air.”
“The idea is to paint with the natural light that is there,” Sperlazza says. “Sometimes it’s a challenge because you really have to paint what is there, as opposed to what you think is there.”
At Brush Strokes Gallery, Joe Wilkinson continues the natural theme in his work with White Oak and Black Walnut wood.
“I chose these two trees because that’s what I have the most of in my backyard,” Wilkinson says. “The White Oak had been there for five years, and it was time to create something with it.”
Wilkinson’s art includes several different types of wood work. From bowls, to vases, to tables, to hanging creations, all are natural and show the true grain of the wood.
“My grandfather and all of his sons worked in saw mills harvesting trees,” he says, “so I like to think that my skills are genetic.”
While some of his pieces are freeform, where Wilkinson decides as he goes what the piece will become, others take a lot of planning and math. For example, one vase is composed of hundreds of pieces of wood, each one cut to be put in a particular place to create a final piece of art.
“I really want people to see the beauty of the wood,” Wilkinson says, “without any stains or dyes.”
The naturalness of Wilkinson work is unique and surprising—the “imperfections” in the wood make each piece one of a kind.
For bright colors and abstract work, check out Gloria Affenit’s art at Art First Gallery. With both watercolors and photography, Affenit fills the gallery walls with color.
“I love flowers and I love color,” she says. “They all just come together in my work.”
Affenit paints most of her flowers from her own garden, and works to bring life into each piece for the viewer.
Recently, Affenit also has begun dabbling in abstract work.
“I rely on the color,” she says. “I put the color down and let it evolve from there, and the end result is always surprising.”
In addition to the artwork in all of the galleries, Via Colori hosted its first Via Tutori workshop. This first workshop was taught by local artist and President of the Fredericksburg Area Museum Ellen Killough.
“The point of this workshop is to help artists feel comfortable in choosing a subject, as well as a chance to get familiar with street painting in general,” says the Chairwoman of Volunteers Rita Snyder.
The workshop taught artists how to choose the best piece for street painting, and how to block off both the painting and the square to create a masterpiece.
“It’s a great way to introduce the public to what Via Colori is,” Snyder says. “And it’s a chance for people to get down on their hands and knees and get dirty.”
The Via Colori Festival is scheduled for September 21-23 at Riverfront Park. There will be two more workshop sessions before the festival. The second is scheduled for July 25, and will be taught by this year’s featured artist, Michael Kirby. It will be held at 6 p.m. at Celebrate Virginia Live. The third workshop will be Aug. 30 at Artful Dimensions Gallery and is designed to answer any and all questions from the public.
Although the street painting is not permanent, it is a wonderful experience to watch the artists at work.
“The beauty is in the action of the art,” Snyder says. “It’s not permanent, but the opportunity to watch the art happen is what the Festival is all about.”
If you weren’t able to make it out this Friday, all the galleries will be showing the specific exhibits throughout July.