A prominent Roanoke artist leads off a series of solo exhibitions by women in the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech.
“Enchantment” by Susan Jamison opened Thursday in the center’s Ruth C. Horton Gallery, featuring 11 of her large, symbol-rich egg tempera paintings. The show stays on display until Oct. 8.
“Enchantment” will be followed by shows from Los Angeles artist Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle (Sept. 8-Nov. 28, Francis T. Eck Exhibition Corridor), Brooklyn artist Amy Cutler (Sept. 15-Dec. 10, Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery and Sherwood Payne Quillen ’71 Reception Gallery) and American artist Lynn Hersham Leeson (Oct. 20-Dec. 10, Ruth C. Horton Gallery).
“I’m excited about the work. It’s strong,” wrote center curator at-large Margo Crutchfield in an email. “And the range, from painting to works on paper to digital photography and an interactive internet-based installation by Lynn Hershman Leeson is invigorating!”
About the all-woman lineup, Crutchfield wrote that each exhibition “deals inventively with the female persona, addressing various aspects of being a woman with all the strengths, vulnerabilities, and challenges entailed … They explore alter egos, ambiguous imaginary persona, as well as personal and political history as a vehicle to probe and understand the female self.”
Art center exhibition program manager Meggin Hicklin curated “Enchantment,” while Crutchfield curated the other three.
Jamison, 50, works in a difficult medium, egg tempera, a paint created by hand-mixing egg yolk, water and pigment. The paint can’t be stored, nor can it be easily made in large quantities. She’s used egg tempera to create paintings 6 feet high and larger.
“I am drawn to this paint because the luminous surface is like no other,” Jamison wrote in an email. “Eggs being the stuff of life creation is a natural match for my feminine subject matter. The process of mixing and applying the paint to the primed hardboard surface is calming and meditative to me.”
Jamison often depicts women and woodland creatures in scenes that recall dark, lyrical fairy tales. The imagery can include objects associated with femininity, such as sewing needles and corsets.
“I would characterize the women who appear in my paintings as a mix of self-portrait and every woman, goddess and folk tale heroine. She is creator, painted warrior, enchantress, explorer, and heroine. She is vulnerable yet powerful,” she wrote.
“The animals I choose as her familiars are primarily birds and woodland creatures native to Southwestern Virginia where I have made my home for over 20 years. They are chosen for their associations and symbolic qualities that span many cultures and time periods.”
She hopes viewers will be able to use her paintings as a springboard for imagining their own stories. “I really do hope to create enchantment.”
This is Jamison’s first solo exhibition in the Roanoke and New River valleys since her 2010 show at the Taubman Museum of Art, “Into the Forest.”
She’s recently branched into textile and sculptural work. Though none of those pieces will be on display at the Moss Arts Center, they’ll figure prominently in “Super Natural,” a solo exhibition opening in the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts at Longwood University on Sept. 23.
As for other artists in the series:
Hinkle’s work focuses on perceptions and misperceptions of the black female body, tackling issues of race head-on. She’ll give an artist talk Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center’s Merryman Family Learning Studio.
Cutler’s whimsical, surreal paintings playfully address the absurdities many women face in their lives by depicting figures engaged in a series of enigmatic, neverending chores. Her work has been shown at the Taubman Museum. Cutler will give an artist talk Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery.
Leeson, a media artist and filmmaker whose work has been shown extensively in Germany, is considered a pioneer in creating interactive art. She’ll give a talk Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Moss Arts Center’s Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre. Virginia Tech’s Armory Gallery will host an additional exhibition of her art from Oct. 18-Nov. 18. The Lyric Theatre will screen her film “!Women Art Revolution” on Oct. 18.
All events are free. For more information, call 231-5300 or visit artscenter.vt.edu.