Friday, June 24, 2016

a visit to the museum of the shenandoah valley, pt 1 (art and artists)

Recently, Kris and I decided to pay a long overdue visit to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, in Winchester, VA. We mainly went to see the Alphonse Mucha, Master of Art Nouveau exhibit, running through July 31, 2016.  Long story short, the Mucha exhibit was incredible, the museum providing the perfect space for a spectacular display of work from one of the most prominent and influential figures in art history. Unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed, but this is an exhibit that must absolutely be seen in person. 

Coming here to this museum reminded me just how great a place the MSV is. The last time I visited was to see a show featuring drawings by Picasso and many of his peers. During this most recent visit, I was turned on to not only the work of Alphonse Mucha, whose art I've always been vaguely familiar with, but also to some folks who I was not familiar at all with. One of those artists was Robert Cross, whose work would fall under the folk/self-taught artist category. His imaginary architectural structures (above and below pics) were a testament to what one can do when they tap into their innate creative potential, and they reminded me of some of the work you might see when visiting the American Visionary Art Museum, in Baltimore, MD. 

Then there was a hanging relief sculpture in the museum, resembling Winchester, VA-born country music star, Patsy Cline. It was a carved wood piece that looked almost like a painted wood-block ready for print-making. The piece, called "Roadhouse Siren" (above and below pics) by local artist Neil Stavely, has a very contemporary feel, and the style is instantly recognizable, as I've seen his work adorn the walls of the Winchester Book Gallery as well.

In the gallery next to the Mucha exhibit was a room full of local landscape paintings by Andrei Kushnir. After attempting to work on landscapes all last summer, I gained a new appreciation for this genre of painting, and Kushnir's work exemplified the eye and hand of a modern master. In all honesty, his exhibit was my favorite in the museum, as stunning as the Mucha show was. His ability to capture a real sense of place, create paintings that were both large-scale and expansive, while also make smaller pieces showing tiny snippets of every-day life, won my heart over. There was a time when I thought that landscape painting was kind of ordinary and boring, and all too common, but when you attempt it yourself, and open your eyes and mind to the infinite approaches artists have explored in this particular genre, it becomes apparent that this is not the case, even remotely. Anyhow, Kushnir's work should be seen in person to truly gain an appreciation of these paintings.

Finally, Kris and I found we were in for a real treat when we stumbled upon the mixed-media collage work of Virginia artist Suzanne Stryk. Her attention to detail, infusing her work with a naturalist's eye and knowledge made each piece a richly layered composition merging the worlds of science and art into works of intriguing beauty. Kris and I look forward to coming back to this part of the MSV again very soon to further explore Suzanne's extraordinary work.

For ten dollars, per adult, you simply cannot go wrong visiting the MSV. There is so much to see and do, and it's a beautiful drive, just outside of historic Old Town Winchester, VA. In the meantime, until the end of July, the museum will be free and open to the public on Wednesdays, until 8pm. Stay tuned for the second installment post of the MSV, focusing on the gardens.