Photos and story by Morgan Hensley
The gray clouds looming over South Pendleton Street during Art in the ‘Burg were ominous, particularly given the context of the event. Last year the annual celebration of local art was canceled not once, but twice; first a downpour threatened to wash the watercolors off the canvas, then a blistering heatwave canceled the already postponed festivities.
You’d think that, given the circumstances, attendees and artists would be on edge. If anything, the opposite was true.
Smiles and cheerfulness abounded all along the side-street. Why wouldn’t everyone be jubilant? They were surrounded by art!
The fourth annual Art in the ‘Burg, which began in 2013, corralled a diverse set of the area’s finest artists. Their styles, subjects and media varied widely.
Many were formally trained, others were self-taught. Many were Art in the ‘Burg veterans, others were welcomed newcomers. Each artist was unique, but together the group existed in a well-balanced harmony; just like any great piece of art, the disparate parts collectively create a beautiful whole.
“It’s a brilliant way of showcasing our local artists while benefiting a great cause,” -Brad Bondi
Regardless of their artistic stylings, all were united by their shared sense of community, passion for creativity and nearly palpable gratitude for having the event go off without a hitch.
The event coincided with the culmination of a wildly successful new addition: the hard-to-miss Foxes on the Fence. The project, which was the brainchild of artist and Middleburg Arts Council Chairwoman Debbie Cadenas, breathed new life into the iconic image. Artists paired with local businesses to create 33 vibrant, four-foot prancing foxes that have drawn swaths of spectators since they were hung on the wrought-iron gate around Middleburg United Methodist Church April 1.
An excited Brad Bondi loved the garden art so much that he purchased four of them. “It’s a brilliant way of showcasing our local artists while benefiting a great cause,” he said.
Middleburg Garden Club President Darcy Justen estimated that the online auction for the pieces raised more than $20,000, portions of which will be donated to the Middleburg Arts Council, Seven Loaves, community beautification projects and scholarships to nature camps.
The crowd favorite, as determined by online voting, was Brenda Griffin’s wintry scene sponsored by the Crooked Angels, marital and musical duo Jamie and Amy Potter. During the event, Jamie strummed and plucked his way through a solo show, serenading an attentive audience with their signature “bourbon-infused Americana” and some wonderful covers. Perhaps his rendition of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up,” a radiant reggae staple, helped to keep the rain at bay.
Attendees flocked to the tent-lined street to talk with the 21 artists about their craft, engage with their work and perhaps leave with a piece of art, a memento of their Art in the ‘Burg excursion. In fact, the first artwork was sold an hour before the event —which ran from 11a.m. to 3p.m. — even began!
Gomer Pyles, a familiar sight around Middleburg with his bushy beard and tie-dye, displayed his photographs. He first dabbled with photography in the 70s when he was hitchhiking and backpacking his way down the road less traveled. During that time, he “sensed that a photograph was a captured moment in time where the eyes meet the landscape with a grin or scowl.”
After suffering a stroke in 2009, Pyles, quick to see the silver lining, noticed that the attack had given him a “child’s set of eyes”; he witnessed landscapes and nature with awe, as though seeing them for the first time. The stroke also increased his patience, a valuable trait for any photographer.
He pointed to a photograph of several horses, their silhouettes aligned, peering over a stone wall. “I waited an hour for them to turn and line up that way,” he said. “Even if I’d missed the shot, I’d still have experienced the moment, and that’s never a waste of time. That’s Gomer philosophy 101 for you.”
To illustrate the event’s diversity, compare Pyles’ photographs with Alice Porter’s
black and white foxhunting scenes. Her displayed works were culled from hundreds of photographs taken over the course of dozens of hunts.
An alumna of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Rhode Island School of Design, two of the country’s most esteemed visual arts programs, her artwork spans years, media and locations. Early sketches illustrate her travels through Europe as a teenager and young adult while her sporting photographs reveal a talented, mature artistic vision.
This was painter and high school art teacher Elaine Florimonte’s first time at Art in the ‘Burg. Her semi-abstracted, emotive paintings filter forests, rivers, fields and other pastoral imagery through a vibrant, distorted lens. “As an artist, I feel that art is a language,” she said. “The voice of my expression. Much like music, art must have order, structure and pattern; an underlying rhythm that carries the eye through a piece.”
Leslie Paterson, a retired arts instructor, incorporates found objects into her acrylic paintings. “I love texture, that’s my favorite element,” she said, directing my attention to a painting that seamlessly intertwining Leyland cypress and plastic grapes with a palette of rich impasto.
Padma Jan Koch’s art — which spans media such as three-dimensional tiles, Eastern-inspired paintings, jewelry, journals and Christmas tree ornaments — exudes movement, expression and color. “Whatever we’re passionate about shows up on the canvas then takes off,” she said.
Then there were the sculptures and “guerrilla gardening flower-bombs” of Courtney Kincaid; the dip-dyed jewelry of Heather Albro; the beachscapes by Lori Goll; the atmospheric, tonalist landscapes of Beaver Dam Farm by Laura Hopkins; and the Technicolor iridized glass mosaics by Lynn Savage Dimoff.
All in all, Art in the ‘Burg was a huge success after its one-year hiatus. The consensus of artists and attendees alike was one of thankfulness to the Middleburg Arts Council for organizing the event and also an eagerness to see what 2018 holds in store. ML