Upon leaving the Barboursville Vineyards, in the village of Barboursville, Orange County, Virginia, Kris and I noticed some art galleries near the railroad tracks. One of them had an unassuming store front look to it, with a sign saying "Nichols Gallery & Studio, OPEN". In the parking lot there were a couple of folks, so we were glad to see some signs of life, in hopes of seeing what the gallery had on display. It just so happened that the folks in the parking lot were Frederick Nichols (the in-house artist) and his wife Beth. Little did Kris and I know, we were in for a real treat, as we were invited inside and given a full studio tour. What we didn't expect was seeing such amazing work in the middle of nowhere!
Frederick, who has been a working artist for over forty years now, focuses on the local landscape, creating vividly-colored oils, acrylics, woodcuts and silk-screened prints. He starts with the photographs he's taken on his walks in the woods, and projects them onto canvases, painting directly from the photographed subject matter. From there, the landscapes take on a whole new life, and the artist incorporates his own personal style and interpretation of color into the work.
Upon entrance of the building, which at one time was a general store, you'll find a beautifully lit gallery space, showcasing the broad range of works, both large and small, by Nichols. Behind the gallery space is the artist's surprisingly expansive studio and library. It was amazing seeing some of the process behind his pieces, and hearing about some of the history of the work.
Upon talking with Fred, it was interesting to note that he was influenced by more modern artists like Warhol, as well as by more traditional landscape painters. Earning an MFA at the Pratt Institute, he experienced what it was like working as an artist in NYC in the 1970's, drawing inspiration from all the fresh new art and movements happening at the time. Still, he was pulled back to his roots in the mountains and landscapes of Virginia, and began focusing on the natural surroundings he grew up with, while injecting a unique and modern personal style into his prints and paintings.
I have to admit, finding the Nichols Gallery and Studio, getting a personal tour of the place, and hanging out with Fred and Beth, who were so kind and accommodating, was an unexpected highlight of the day. In fact, Kris and I even went home with a piece purchased right there at the gallery, which we absolutely love. If you're in the area, please don't hesitate to drop by and discover the work of one of the area's most accomplished (and humble) artists. Kris and I were lucky to be passing by when Fred and Beth had just returned from a visit to the gym, so be sure to check the website for hours, and call to pay a visit.