Written by Kaitlin Hill | Artwork by Regina Miele
When asked what inspired her latest exhibit “Nature’s Alchemy,” D.C.-based artist Regina Miele shares, “Going out to Middleburg and the Piedmont Virginia, you absolutely realize why that region was given the same name from Europe.” She adds, “The Blue Ridge Mountains are one of the most beautiful ranges I’ve ever seen. They are also one of the oldest. There are colors and light that project from them.”
On display through October 29 at the Byrne Gallery on West Washington Street in Middleburg, Miele’s locally-inspired body of work captures the magic of autumn in Hunt Country with her clever use of bold colors, varied perspectives, delicate gilding, Renaissance technique, and a poignant focus on the beauty of light and the importance of time.
Self-described as a “devout oil painter,” Miele’s path to painting started in childhood. A New Jersey native, access to the Metropolitan Museum of Art sparked an early and enduring interest in art. “That is where it started for me, having exposure to the New York museum system. And from a very young age, being completely captivated by painting to a point where I probably could have outstayed my parents looking at stuff,” Miele remembers.
She adds, “And I always loved drawing. From elementary school age, I could put aside four or five hours a day and focus on drawing. That certainly didn’t apply anywhere else in my life.”
Miele attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C., but, initially, wasn’t certain she would make a career out of being an artist. “I was undecided about fully majoring in art and thought maybe I would major in education because of the reality that there weren’t any art jobs.”
Her perspective changed when she was accepted to a program in Florence her junior year. “I spent my junior year, plus a summer semester, at a school called Lorenzo de Medici.” She continues, “That absolutely finalized it for me … the experience of living in Florence…. I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than painting. For me, it has always felt like a vocation.”
Since graduating, Miele explains, “For my entire adult life, it has been a priority. I’ve approached it as a discipline. I’ve just always been deeply committed.”
That dedication paired with Renaissance techniques result in art that is simultaneously contemporary and timeless. “For the work I am showing with the Byrne Gallery, I work with a lot of Renaissance-based techniques. Many of the paintings are on panel but they are primed with lead paint, done with gloves and a mask and all the safety stuff you should do,” she adds with a laugh. She continues, “But those materials are essential to creating real light in paintings. These older, original techniques are still time-tested and incredible. They create longevity for the work itself.”
Though new to her, another time-tested technique Miele is applying is the use of gilding and metal leaf. “I go off in a different direction using gilding and leaf in a way that I think expresses how beautiful the area of Middleburg is and the skies during this time of year and a specific time of day.”
Even more, Miele’s mastery of expressing the passage of time makes her work seem simultaneously still and in motion. As a pale sun breaks through morning’s gray in “Clearing at Dawn,” or blood orange bounces off deep Blue Ridge blue in “Blue Ridge Sunset,” Miele’s brush strokes expertly capture a moment that feels like a deep breath — long enough to get lost in but precious and fleeting all the same.
When asked what she hopes viewers will take away from the exhibit, Miele says, “a receptivity to the area where they live and [to use it] as a vehicle for slowing down.” She also reflects on an adage from one of her teachers at art school in Italy. “I’ll never forget this, the thought that all art is contemporary art because you’re looking at it in the moment that you’re seeing it.” She finishes, “I hope that regardless of why people are going [to the exhibit], that it is worth the visit. I would love people to attend for the viewership.”
And as for her time working with the Byrnes, she says, “Bill and Susan have been wonderful to work with. There has been an appropriate amount of guidance and expectations but then there has been a great deal of faith and artistic freedom.” She concludes, “I have enjoyed doing this body of work from start to finish.” ML
“Nature’s Alchemy” is on display October 4 through 29, with a special artists’ reception on October 14 from 4 to 7 p.m. and a Gallery Talk on October 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information on the exhibit and events, visit thebyrnegallery.com. And find more of Miele’s artwork at reginamiele.com.
Published in the October 2023 issue of Middleburg Life.