CLIFTON FORGE — Two new exhibits opened Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center, featuring artists Anna Wentworth and Julie Gale.

Both Wentworth and Gale live and create in Roanoke, but often reflect the places they have traveled to in their paintings.

Wentworth’s exhibit, “My Last Picture Show —  Maybe,” reflects her travels from Virginia and North Carolina to New York City, the island of Sark, in the English Channel; as well as scenes from Italy, France, Czechoslovakia, Scotland and Germany. Visitors can enjoy several vacations in a single room.

Straightforward and direct, her paintings reveal her delight in regional architecture, light, and a sense of place. It is particularly fun to notice that the Clifton Forge Town Hall and the Sommersby House in Bath County are featured among those wider travels. 

With an art major degree from Radford and a master’s degree from Hollins, Went-worth has created identities from librarian to film reviewer, but art was certainly her first love. 

“When I was four or so I decided my mother’s books needed illustrations, so I drew them — in all her books,” Wentworth said.

“I have been drawing as long as I can remember. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing on something including my father’s papers and the bathroom wall,” she added. “My mother was not an artist but she used to tell me stories about her childhood living on a farm and she drew pictures of herself and her brother fishing, chasing frogs, etc., so that probably influenced me a lot, too.” 

Wentworth continued her art education with three years of oil painting in high school — usually with upper classmen who thought the class would be easy — it was not.

After Radford she was influenced by some local artists as well, including Vera Dickerson, Peyton Klein, Ann Glover, and many others. 

“I’ve called this exhibit at the Alleghany Highlands Art and Crafts Center ‘My Last Picture Show — Maybe’ because it had been my intention for the past year or so to stop doing shows. I had ‘quit,’ then Nancy Newhard who has been a friend, asked me to do one more show and here I am,” she explained.

“There is stress that goes along with preparing for a show; painting new work, framing, trying to select the best and most marketable subjects the venue,” she added. “In most cases, prep also includes hanging the show, making labels for the work, publicizing the show on media and social media, even dealing with clients and sales.

“After years of doing this, being part of several galleries where new work was regularly required and always thinking of my work in a commercial way, (was I selling enough work to make it worthwhile for the gallery to ‘keep’ me?) I had decided to stop that mindset,” Wentworth continued.

“I wanted to start looking at my art as an enjoyable pastime rather than a commercial venture. If someone wants it, that’s fine, but not a priority, “Wentworth said. “That has not been as easy as I thought it would be. I do love to paint, especially landscapes, and especially places I have traveled, but I hope to do it without the self-induced pressure to make them commercially desirable.

“That idea of its worth is still in the back of my mind whenever I choose a scene to paint, but I hope to get over that. I also enjoy painting beach scenes. Who doesn’t love sun, sand, beach umbrellas and kids having fun? I’ll probably continue painting those as well — whenever we can all safely go back to beaches.

“If I can finally separate myself from the need to put a price on my work, I hope to do more experimental pieces without the self-imposed pressure of ‘will it sell?’ But I have noticed that without the deadline of a show, I don’t paint as much, or sometimes at all. I was really invited to do this show at an opportune time when I needed a reason to paint. It is a two-edged sword after all. That is really why I am calling this ‘My Last Picture Show — Maybe.’ Because maybe I need the idea of a show to inspire me to do work.”

Julie Gale comes to painting after a career in laboratory medicine.

“I have always loved to draw and paint, and I am very lucky to have studied with many fine artist teachers at Virginia Western Community College and the Studio School in Roanoke,” Gale said. “I call my show ‘Reflections’ because reflections can be both literal, as the ‘Three Flamingos’ from the San Diego Zoo and their reflections in a pond, or a memory such as two women reflecting on their friendship in ‘The Conversation.’ 

“I am continually inspired by the natural beauty of our surroundings and how our rivers and mountains are always changing with the season and time of day,” she continued. “‘July Cornfield’ and ‘Down by the River’ were both painted on location in Bath County. When painting ‘plein air’ the light is constantly changing, so brushstrokes must be put down quickly and expressively.

“I love to use color and I have always been inspired by the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists,” Gale added. “Visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam is a highlight of my travels. In ‘Color Stream,’ I use exaggerated color to express the energy of the woods, and in ‘Golden Creek’ I use gold leaf to convey the last glow of sunset on the river. 

“I love to travel and often work from photos and sketches from my travels,” she continued. ‘“Paris Splash’ is a moment when the traffic light changes and people are crossing a busy intersection in the rain. I was fascinated by the color of the umbrellas and the energy of the crowd. ‘Fish Beach’ and ‘Sunflowers and Susans’ represent favorite places on Monhegan Island, Maine where the light is clear, and the air is crisp enough to taste.”

Gale has participated in many Studio School group shows at Northcross Gallery, and shown work at WVTF Gallery, the Piedmont Art Center in Martinsville and at the former Signature 9 Gallery in Roanoke.

“Art is a wonderful journey and I’ve met many wonderful people on the way,” she concluded. “I am grateful for this opportunity to share my work.”

Both exhibits will continue through Friday, Oct.  9. Please encourage your friends to enjoy the exhibits. Admission is free. Please wear a mask and maintain social distance but do sign our guest book. 

The Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center is supported by its members, contributors, volunteers, the town of Clifton Forge, the city of Covington, Alleghany County, The Alleghany Foundation, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

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‘THREE FLAMINGOS’ — An exhibit of works by artist Julie Gale of Roanoke, titled “Reflections,” is currently on display at the Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center in Clifton Forge. Included in the exhibit is this painting, “Three Flamingos.” (Gavin Dressler Photo) 

‘MANHATTAN AT NIGHT’ — The Alleghany Highlands Arts and Crafts Center is currently featuring “ My Last Picture Show — Maybe,” a collection of works by artist Anna Wentworth of Roanoke. This piece, titled “Manhattan at Night,” is among the works included in the display. “My Last Picture Show — Maybe” will be on display through Friday, Oct. 9. (Gavin Dressler Photo)