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Shepherdstown exhibit features new works from local artists

By Staff | Aug 7, 2015

History, travel, nature and origins collide in one room in Shepherdstown, as local artists showcase their unique works at the “Local Color” exhibit.

Upon entering the exhibit, Rhonda Smith’s first piece on the wall is aptly titled, “where did the summer go?”

Using sheets of Plexiglas that have been scratched and scarred, Smith applies ink and transfers the patterns to paper. Overprinting various plates produces a tangle of lines suggesting maps and coordinates. Smith then adds mixed media elements to tell a story within her piece.

Smith, who has been part of the art faculty at Shepherd University since 1987, has visited many parts of the world. Travel, and her encounters with other cultures are a powerful motivator in her artistic creations.

A collection of her works on display at the “Local Color” exhibit, represent a recent trip out West.

“I was highly influenced by the landscape coloring – the terra cotta and blues,” said Smith. “None of these are of a particular place, they represent more of an experience.”

With bits of maps and text, as well as the images in her art, Smith weaves the spiritual nuances together with her experiences and discoveries.

“It’s the joy of the journey that I hope gets repeated in these works,” stated Smith.

Artisan, Neil Super, hand crafts objects of beauty and usefulness from local wood that he harvests himself.

Super, a Shepherdstown resident for more than two decades, is passionate about his work, although he fell into his craft unexpectedly. He used to tap maple trees and would find beauty in the fallen branches.

He began to whittle and hand carve the branches, eventually teaching himself to use a lathe machine that he had purchased.

“This is a self-taught thing for me,” said Super. “I’ve only been doing it for about seven or eight years.”

Using felled trees in locations of historical significance, Super has created several series of objects from areas including, Elmwood Cemetery, Duffield Colored Cemetery, and Rosebrake, among others, and gives the first piece created to the property owner as a thank you.

“I love history and I love telling stories and I love making things with my hands,” said Super.

Often called upon to make a memento for sentimental reasons if someone has a favorite tree that dies, Super says, “I believe I found what I was meant to do.”

Super enthusiastically tells the story of the trees that he has repurposed, while encouraging visitors to touch and hold his creations on display.

Susan Carney, a Shepherd University graduate and artist in residence, spends the summers making her monotype prints and the winters painting. Carney’s richly vibrant paintings on display are primarily oil on canvas, with some mixed media, acrylic and collage. The subject of her paintings make a bold statement. Carney says the point is to magnify the “portrait” of the bird or plant to add importance to it.

With a nod to ancient times and origins, many of Carney’s paintings contain hieroglyphics, mathematical equations or constellations in the background, while highlighting plant roots as the main subject.

“I like the metaphor of the root. It’s the underpart–it symbolizes our ancestors and history,” Carney said. “Although I don’t fully understand the physics equations, physics tries to explain life. Again, it’s about history.”

Carney says she fascinated with change. Seeds, roots, plants and nature are constantly changing, and a lot of that imagery comes into her work.

Carney has also created a unique way of making prints called monotypes, which are created from a printmaking process in which only one print is created. Using stencils she cuts from roof flashing, she can create a series of similar prints, but each one is unique due to various paint application and stencil placement.

All three artists have items available for purchase.

More information about each artist can be found at their websites: Rhonda Smith, www.behance.net/rhondaatshepherd. Neil Super, tworiversturnings.com. Susan Carney, www.susancarney.com.