Written by Shayda Windle

Images Courtesy of Artists in Middleburg

The Artists in Middleburg (AiM) recently announced the winners of their latest juried exhibition, “Springtime Splendor,” judged by acclaimed professional artists Jennifer Sims and Betsy Manierre. The exhibition, open to local artists, challenged participants to reflect on the wonders and new life that spring brings. The jurors evaluated the art submissions based on composition, use of color, technique, visual impact, and originality. 

Sims says she was looking for “clear and fresh” ways for artists to depict the splendor of spring, indicating she wanted “to hear the artists’ voices, recognize their technical mastery, see beauty and harmony in their designs, and understand their vision.” Sims, who has collectors all over the country and has won international recognition for her art, takes many things into consideration when judging artwork including “overall composition, gesture, control of materials, and drawing skills where appropriate.” Together, Sims and Manierre awarded Gayle Isabelle Ford “Best In Show” for her “Orchid Study.” The winning piece is an intricate watercolor painting of a delicate orchid which was inspired by one of the thousands of flowers on display at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. 

After spending 23 years in Colorado, Ford moved back to Virginia where she could be at home among the Blue Ridge Mountains in Hunt Country. Ford works in many mediums to “capture aspects of nature and the play of light and shadows that most people may miss in their hurried lives.” Perhaps it is this level of detail that helped her win first place. Sims adds, “The gesture is surprising and the subject matter unusual for a show about spring since many of us think of orchids as indoor plants. This need not be, however, and spring is not just what we imagine it to be in Virginia. The artist invites us to look closely at her specimen, asking us to feel the serenity of spring in a flower less famously associated with it. What other subtle beauties are we overlooking in our woods this May?”

This statement about what we may be overlooking during spring couldn’t be truer than what’s seen in second-place winner Laura Hopkin’s tonalist piece. “Mount Weather Mood V” is likely not what first comes to mind when most think of spring, perhaps making it all that more special. Sims seems to agree. “This piece invites us to think: What happens in the evenings of springtime when the glitz and glamor of the newly lush landscape slides into darkness?” she remarks.

Hopkins explains, “Every morning when I get up and each night before I go to bed, I look from my bedroom toward Mt. Weather. The mountain’s appearance, rising behind the fields and woodlands, changes from moment to moment. Sometimes, a vibrant blue green, sometimes distinctly violet, other times, nearly black or maroon.” The constantly changing scenery of Hunt Country in the spring is nothing short of amazing. One day, you may be surrounded by tulips in full bloom, lush trees, and rolling hills, and by nightfall, you are taken aback by a full moon as flurries cover the flowers you just planted. Spring in Hunt Country is not what most think it would be. 

Third-place winner William Walsh’s “The Osprey — First Catch” is an acrylic piece depicting an osprey emerging from the water in the earliest hours of spring with his first catch from the sea tucked in his claws. Sims explains that the splendor of spring in this unique depiction comes in the form of a “still, wintry-looking landscape melting into a slightly less frozen moment. The artist has succeeded in creating movement without blurring the focal point or employing gimmicks. This is the edge of spring: a frozen moment of new warmth. One can often tell a successful work of art by [the fact that] the immediacy of what it conveys takes precedence over the technical proficiency with which it was done. This work does that, leaving the viewer to consider the skillful rendering with the second breath rather than the first.” 

There is no doubt these pieces must be seen in person to appreciate their true splendor. Be sure to stop by the Artists in Middleburg (AiM) gallery before the exhibit ends on May 8. And stay tuned for the next installment, “The Horse in Art V,” coming May 14. ML

This article first appeared in the May 2022 Issue.

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