Close en­coun­ters with artists

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By HeatHer Wicke Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

Fans of the Rap­pa­han­nock Artists Tour know ex­actly why we look for­ward to the event each year. We see and ex­pe­ri­ence sur­pris­ing new things vis­it­ing lo­cal artists’ stu­dios and gal­leries.

But what do the artists think of us … the hun­dreds of visi­tors that come to look and talk with them? What are the re­wards of the enor­mous ef­fort to cre­ate a large body of art­works and beau­tify their stu­dios? How does the Tour af­fect their lives as lo­cal work­ing artists?

There is no bet­ter place to turn to an­swer those ques­tions than some of the artists in­volved in the first Tour in 2004 and still par­tic­i­pat­ing in this years’ 13th com­ing up this week­end.

Nancy Keyser is a wa­ter­color and pas­tel artist who helped to plan the first and sub­se­quent Tours and has opened her stu­dio ev­ery year. She says that it has served to de­fine her cre­ative work­ing life through­out the year. She ex­per­i­ments and teaches paint­ing classes in the Win­ter, col­lects her ideas and plans her work in the spring, paints through­out the sum­mer, and frames her paint­ings in the fall to get them ready for the event. She is en­er­gized by the en­thu­si­as­tic in­ter­ac­tion with the visi­tors, both new and re­peat­ing, that come each year.

Benita Rauda Gowen is a mul­ti­me­dia and col­lage artist who has also been on ev­ery Tour. She cred­its the event with “keep­ing her go­ing and cre­at­ing.” She also wel­comes the dis­ci­pline im­posed by the Tour dead­lines and the mo­ti­va­tion it pro­vides when ob­sta­cles have to be overcome. Amazed by the num­ber of peo­ple that come to her stu­dio each year, she en­joys the so­cial en­gage­ment with those that value creativ­ity and art.

Hans Ger­hard is a painter and metal sculp­tor who has missed only the first Tour. He has found it an ef­fec­tive way to lure old friends from his pre­vi­ous life to his stu­dio, gather friends made in thirty years in the

county, and meet new ones as the fame of the an­nual event has spread within the re­gion. He is proud to be part of this ef­fort to sup­port lo­cal arts and com­mu­nity.

Jeanne Drevas is a multi-tal­ented artist

in­volved since the Tour’s in­cep­tion. Now liv­ing in Salem, Oregon, she re­turns each year to par­tic­i­pate as a guest artist. “As a strug­gling artist in Rap­pa­han­nock, I jumped on the in­vi­ta­tion of Lois Manookian and Linda Di­etel to a meet­ing about or­ga­niz­ing a stu­dio tour. Then I was en­cour­aged to go be an artist and fo­cus on mak­ing my best pre­sen­ta­tion to our pa­tron­age. Th­ese days, I am try­ing to let my cre­ative mind go where it must and the Tour pro­vides an en­thu­si­as­tic, knowl­edge­able, and sup­port­ive base to re­ceive and re­spond.”

Nol Put­nam is a metal sculp­tor who par­tic­i­pated in the first Tour and most of them since. He and Jeanne Drevas will be present and show­ing their re­cent works dur­ing the Tour week­end at the RH Ballard Gallery. “My first thought about the Tour is al­ways ex­haus­tion. Cre­at­ing takes, of course, the longest time … imag­in­ing what to cre­ate, then mak­ing it hap­pen. What is dif­fi­cult is that we are drawn to be artists, but there is no guar­an­tee we will ‘make it’ as artists. It is lonely… ideas come in soli­tude. And the will to cre­ate, share, and ex­plore our vi­sion of our world pro­pels us.”

Martin Woodard is a painter who was also in­volved in plan­ning for the first Tour and is re­turn­ing af­ter a 6-year hia­tus. “Dur­ing those six years, busi­ness and travel led to a loss of mo­men­tum for my paint­ing. I did a few pieces here and there but not enough to rekin­dle the pas­sion. Paint­ing is not like rid­ing a bi­cy­cle — you need to work at it. When I rented my new stu­dio in Sper­ryville, I fi­nally found my­self work­ing and feel­ing much more in­spired. Pre­vi­ously, I had the art tour process down. Now it’s all new … an ex­cit­ing whirl­wind . . . I’m very mo­ti­vated and in­spired.”

Peter Kramer is a fine fur­ni­ture maker who can’t re­mem­ber ever con­sid­er­ing skip­ping a Tour. “I re­ceive a great deal of plea­sure and per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion from de­sign­ing and cre­at­ing new pieces of in­ter­est­ing fur­ni­ture. The Tour pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to de­velop some new de­signs and a mo­ti­vat­ing dead­line for their com­ple­tion . . . it also pro­vides a won­der­ful chance to in­ter­act with folks and get some valu­able feed­back or, bet­ter yet, re­ceive a com­mis­sion for a new piece.”

Jackie Bai­ley Labowitz is a pho­to­graphic artist and the owner of Cot­tage Cu­ra­tor Gallery in Sper­ryville, who par­tic­i­pated for the first time last year in her gallery. This year she will be invit­ing Tour-go­ers into her work­ing stu­dio which ad­joins the Gallery. Lo­cal artist Kathy Chum­ley will be her guest there. When asked about her de­ci­sion to open her stu­dio, she said that she was in­spired by her fa­vorite part of her ca­reer as an art col­lec­tion and mu­seum cu­ra­tor. “It is a very spe­cial treat to visit an artist in their stu­dio and learn about what is most im­por­tant to them.” Visi­tors be­come part of the cre­ative mix when they make their own per­sonal con­nec­tion to the art and artist. Jackie is de­lighted when peo­ple who have seen her large pho­to­graphs of small ex­quis­ite wild flow­ers tell her that they are now see­ing th­ese flow­ers for the first time on their own wood­land walks. Her wish

. . . that ev­ery­one could ap­pre­ci­ate the com­mon­al­ity of hu­man en­deavor. As she sees it, artists, just like farm­ers, scientists and ev­ery­one else, are try­ing to solve a “prob­lem” and leave their unique sig­na­ture on what­ever they choose to do with their lives and en­ergy. The Tour con­trib­utes to that sense of con­nec­tion and com­mu­nity.

From left, top row: Works by Nancy Keyser, Hans Ger­hard, Nol Put­nam.

Bot­tom row: Benita Rauda Gowen, Martin Woodard, Jeanne Drevas.

By Peter Kramer

By Jackie Bai­ley Labowitz

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