Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fall Fiber Festival and Furry Friends

The Fall Fiber Festival is being held today and tomorrow at Montpelier, James Madison’s historic home, near Orange, Virginia.  It’s basically a celebration of all things fibrous… meaning, yarn and felt and the supplies you need to weave, knit, crochet and tat.  It’s also a fabulous opportunity to learn more about the animals that provide raw “wool”: sheep, goats, bunnies, llamas and alpacas.

I met this charming fellow last year at the Festival.
Very confident and photogenic.  He definitely knows he is special (although I’m not certain he is a he).
Never mind.  He got me thinking about my favorite “animal” artists from the region.

Marsha Heatwole lives near Lexington, Virginia, with a small menagerie of domesticated animals, many of whom populate her art work.  And I do mean populate.  Her rather frenetic-kinetic-style really conveys humor and joy, and she manages to capture each animal’s personality even in “group” portraits.
Audience of Sheep by Marsha Heatwole
Marsha works in a wide range of media, including:
Various forms of etching;
Father's Day by Marsha Heatwole
Rabbit with Iris by Marsha Heatwole
Maurice by Marsha Heatwole
And acrylic paint.
Proud Cheetah by Marsha Heatwole
We own one of Marsha’s etchings: Chickens Divine, and it hangs in our little hallway gallery of regional artists.  Her original prints and paintings are very affordable, but she also offers copies of her work in note cards, switch plate covers and magnets.  You can contact Marsha directly or purchase her creations at Artists in Cahoots in downtown Lexington.

Earlier this spring, several artists in the Rockbridge County area, including Marsha, held an open studio tour.  They are hoping to host another tour in 2013, so you could visit Marsha and her furry subjects.

Cynthia Burke is based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and predominately paints in oil on panel or canvas.  Sometimes she uses small, almost book-size, copper “canvases” to create these luminous studies of local birds.
Goldfinch by Cynthia Burke
As you can see, Cynthia is inspired by nature and intimate interior scenes and portraits from the Dutch Golden Age.  So she depicts the common Blue Jay as a rising guild member and our neighborhood Possum and Groundhog in ruff and robes!
Blue Jay by Cynthia Burke
Opposum by Cynthia Burke

Groundhog by Cynthia Burke
The more exotic Snowy Egret and Flamingo are like feathery still lifes… all gorgeous plumage instead of fading flowers and fruit… with backdrops of tapestry and silk.
Snowy Egret by Cynthia Burke

Flamingo by Cynthia Burke
Cynthia’s work is meticulous and luxurious.  Just about radiant.

And amazingly priced.  You can visit Cynthia in her studio at the McGuffey Art Center in downtown Charlottesville.

Okay, okay.  I recognize that Catherine Ledner is hardly a local artist.  Born and bred in New Orleans, she now lives in Southern California with her family and a pint-size clan of animals.
Catherine’s photographs of animals (whether the subjects are pets or wild beings) manage to communicate what she sees and what she wants us to imagine.  These animals are both individuals and icons.
It's hard to resist this shaggy sweetheart.

Flamingo by Catherine Ledner
Catherine is well-aware of the juxtaposition, the slightly off-kilter look of her images.  And that’s all part of the fun.
Fox by Catherine Ledner

Llama by Catherine Ledner
You can find Catherine’s photographs in national advertising campaigns and major magazines.  But you can also commission or buy her work for yourself.  She has a whole website devoted to her animal photography: Catherine's Animals.  Her books Animal House and Glamour Dogs are available through most bookstores.
Sheep by Catherine Ledner
The Fall Fiber Festival is always held the first weekend in October in a huge field across State Route 20 from the Montpelier house and old train station.  We try to attend every year for the sheep dog trials (although the sheep are pretty obstinate by Sunday), kettle corn and tent after tent of wooly wares.  It’s our kickoff to autumn and is usually a gorgeous day no matter what the weather.  Montpelier is nestled in a beautiful stretch of the Piedmont – lightly wooded with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains – and an easy drive from Washington, D.C. or Richmond.

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