Posted by Holly Kozelsky
March 13, 2017
One of the great figures in Martinsville’s art world is being celebrated with an exhibit in the museum she helped establish.
“Wanda Prillaman: Watercolor Invitational” opened Saturday at Piedmont Arts and will be on display through April 29.
Prillaman was one of the founders of Lynwood Artists, the group of regional artists who founded Piedmont Arts in 1961. She taught art at Martinsville High School, Bassett High School, Drewry Mason High School, Patrick Henry Community College and in her home. She was 80 when she died in 2014.
The exhibit features 29 paintings by Prillaman as well as paintings by 21 regional watercolor artists, many of whom were influenced in some way by Prillaman.
The exhibit is co-curated by Piedmont Arts Director of Exhibitions Heidi Pinkston and local watercolor artist Jane Iten, who is a member of the Virginia Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society.
“People in the community just came out of the woodwork” to loan Piedmont Arts paintings by Prillaman for the exhibit, Pinkston said. “Her body of work was just enormous, so we picked as many as we could” from what were offered.
One piece on loan from Dr. James and Betty Sue Layton is “Home Place, Augusta County (Built in the 1700s),” which they commissioned from her. The bucolic scene of a Carolina T farmhouse and outbuildings on a hill was painted from seeing a 1-inch portion of a faded old monotone photograph.
Much of what Prillaman painted was “things that meant a lot to her” and other people, Pinkston said.
One work on display is a portrait of her daughter, Ann Hamre, and granddaughter, who live in Dallas.
“Wordsworth Cottage at Grasmer (and a Flower from His Garden)” combines both her appreciation for special places with a little irreverence. On loan from the Ron and Elaine Ferrill, this work is a formal painting of the gardens – with a real flower from the gardens included. A sign at the gardens had said that picking flowers was not allowed.
Other paintings in the exhibit are on loan from Suzanne and Rusty Lacy, Nancy Baker, Will and Gale Gravely, Nancy and John Philpott, and Eliza and John Severt. Hal Prillaman lent many of her paintings for the exhibit.
Prillaman was known for the unique Christmas cards she created for 45 years. Each year, she would paint a painting specifically to be reproduced as a Christmas card; many feature enchanting local scenes, such as the former train depot decorated for Christmas, on a snowy day.
Some of the original paintings, and a few framed Christmas cards, are on display at Piedmont Arts. Forty of her Christmas cards and seven of the original paintings from which they were made will be on display at The Historic Little Post Office near Piedmont Arts throughout April.
Prillaman was a signature member of the Virginia Watercolor Society. Her paintings are in the collections of individuals, libraries and colleges across the United States as well as in France and England.
Her work also has been in the public. The cover of Charity League’s cookbook “Barracuda in Velvet Gloves” was painted by her. She painted one of the dinosaur statues around Martinsville, as well as a “Hokie Bird,” a Virginia Tech version of the VMNH dinosaur.
She was a past president of Charity League, the board of directors of Piedmont Arts and the Virginia Watercolor Society. She also was a member of the Garden Study Club, the El Libro Book Club and Master Gardeners.
Prillaman “convinced Piedmont Arts to have the Virginia Watercolor Society (convention) here in 2000, and the amount of work she did to have that here the whole weekend was enormous,” Iten said.
Prillaman was a signature member of the Virginia Watercolor Society. “Most of the artists in the invitational had a connection to Wanda,” Pinkston said. “Wanda encouraged so many to participate in their first show.”
“Jane and I invited 113 watercolor artist in the Virginia Watercolor Society” to submit images of their work to be considered for the exhibit, Pinkston said. “We selected 21” of those.
To plan their show, Iten and Pinkston followed the criteria established by the Virginia Watercolor Society for their shows. They allow “anything that is water media on paper,” Iten said. Basically, that means acrylic paint as well as watercolor paint is used.
There also is a new kind of paper out some artists are using, and there are a few examples of that in Piedmont Arts’ exhibit: Yupo paper.
Yupo paper is “very slick, so control is almost impossible,” Iten said. After the paint is dry, paint can be wiped off with water and the painting can be changed. Because the paint can be removed so easily, most Yupo paintings are under glass, Iten said.
Working with Yupo, “you can get interesting effects,” she added. “You can spritz it with alcohol to make different designs. It drips, it runs, it does its own thing.”
Artists exhibiting work in the invitational include: Iten, who lives in Ridgeway; Donna S. Koger of Martinsville; Walter and Carole C. Davis of Blacksburg; S. Revelle Hamilton and Perri L. Mason of Bedford; Nancy Newhard of Clifton Forge; David Eakin of Forest; Purnell Pettyjohn and Jane Carter Vaughn of Lynchburg; Tracy Budd, Jane Winders Frank, Myrtle Hooker, Martha Rhodes, Suzanne Davis Ross, Nancy M. Stark, Gari Stephenson and Betty M. Williamson of Roanoke; Linda Lavigne Long of Richmond; Vera Dickerson of Troutville; and Carolyn Epperly of Charleston, S.C.
Wanda Prillaman Watercolor Invitational is sponsored by King’s Grant, Hal Prillaman, Nancy Baker, Dr. Barry Dorsey, Ron and Elaine Ferrill, Jim and Sandra Ford, Langhorne Mauck, John and Phyllis Mitchell, John and Nancy Philpott, Jim and Eliza Severt, Patricia S. Wilson and Lynwood Artists.
In the Lynwood Artists Gallery is “Adjunct / Ben Winslow.” Winslow is a pottery instructor and studio tech at Rockingham Community College in Wentworth, North Carolina. He has been working with ceramics for a decade.
Winslow’s work has won several awards in the annual “Expressions” open-entry exhibit at Piedmont Arts.
His works on display feature many different techniques, including Raku and crystalline.