MEET THE ARTISTS
This is the last in a weekly series of articles on the artists you can visit during this weekend’s Artists of Rappahannock Studio & Gallery Tour, sponsored by the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community (RAAC).
Artists: Jeanne Drevas, Margot Neuhaus, Eric Kvarnes.
Tour dates: Nov. 6-7
Tickets/info: You can buy tickets ($10 per person) and start your tour with a look at the artists’ gallery set up at the Washington fire hall, starting at 10 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Call 540-675-3193 or visit www.raac.org.
Come and support your talented local artists this beautiful fall weekend during the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and Community’s (RAAC) annual Studio and Gallery Tour. The tour begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Washington fire hall, where tickets can be purchased.
These first two Sperryville artists may be tucked back in the woods, around curves and up hillsides, but if a Michelin Guide book critique was to rate them, they would undoubtedly receive three stars for “worth a detour.”
An obsession over a doodle resembling a lima bean has since progressed into much more for artist Margot Neuhaus.
Born in Mexico City, Neuhaus now resides in Rappahannock with her husband. After receiving a master’s degree in sociology and psychology at the University of Chicago, she worked as a therapist. Taking nighttime art classes, it was there Neuhaus finally turned her “bean” obsession into reality: a two-foot cement sculpture now housed at her Washington, D.C. home.
“I’m not leading [my art], I’m being led,” she said, “in both materials and content.” Neuhaus works in one medium until she’s ready to move on. “When I do a [new art form], there’s an outpour,” she said, an “impulse to go into a particular direction.”
At first that direction was carving wood and chiseling stone. She soon progressed to Japanese ink, watercolors, and acrylics, all on watercolor paper. The last five years have taken her into photography, and most recently pastels.
Reviewers have noted a common thread of “minimalism” in Neuhaus’ style, reminiscent of Japanese art. “I find beauty in the very simple,” she said, “[and to] simplify the essence of something.”
Perhaps one of Neuhaus’ most amazing accomplishments is her set of eight totem pole-like creations commissioned by Washington, D.C.’s Art Museum of the Americas. “I got a chainsaw, some steel-toed shoes, and goggles,” said the petite artist, and she had at it. Slicing and dicing cedar, white and red oak, sycamore and hickory trees, the 13-foot sculptures she calls “Forest” are housed in her lovely studio off Old Hollow Road and are a sight to behold.
If you were to ask artist Jeanne Drevas to do an “installation,” you might find oodles of pine needles tenderly cradled in a nearby tree or a 10-foot wall of carefully stripped bark standing on end.
Alexandria-raised Drevas majored in sculpting in college, realizing, she said, “I always wanted to work with clay.” She started a pottery career soon after, supporting herself waiting tables.
Drevas returned from a 1970s craft fair with a large order, giving her encouragement to carry on in the arts. Currently, she creates mostly low-fire “underglazed” pottery, a process using color topped with clear glaze.
Drevas’ imaginative ware depicts snapshots of nature and animals and have become, with time, “looser but more complex,” she said, many incorporating her wonderful sense of humor and whimsy.
In love with nature and “always fascinated by bark,” Drevas eventually learned how to carefully extract bark from newly downed trees, dry it, soak and soften it, then craft it by re-drying the bark over forms or restraining it from digression.
Drevas prefers using “hand-gathered, natural materials.” For past commissions, she has created “installations” such as enormous nets filled with pine needles which twist, turn, and undulate through trees, parks or store fronts. “Everything I do is labor intensive,” she said.
Drevas’ unique house is also open for viewing during the tour. In 1971, she bought her Rappahannock property and designed and built a house with her friends’ help. Not afraid of a chainsaw, she erected a type of hippie-meets-Frank Lloyd Wright (or perhaps Paul Bunyon) home that includes a stain-glass welcome window, handmade pottery sinks, and beautiful wood beams adorning an airy living room and loft.
So if Drevas’ wild (often), woolly (sometimes), woody (frequently) and wonderful (always) art isn’t enticing enough for you to seek her out on Potter’s Ridge, maybe her organic house reminiscent of a “Lord of the Rings” set is.
Drevas is a member of the very talented, Washington-based Six-Pack Gallery artists group, which includes Jim Ramsey, Pam Pittinger, Ann Georgia-McCaffray, Linda Tarry, Janet Brome, and Chris Stephens.
Housed in the same building is the talented Boston-born furniture/cabinetmaker Justin Corddry of JPC Woodworking. After studying studio arts and physics at UVA and working eight years with a traditional woodworker in Boyce, Va., Corddry in 2005 opened his current shop, where he “figures out [his] own adaptation” of a piece by “taking the traditional and playing with it.” Everyone knows that moms always know best.
For Eric Kvarnes of Sperryville’s Glassworks Gallery and Oldway Art Center that was exactly the case and then some.
Kvarnes repeatedly told his mother until age 10 that someday he was “gonna buy a junkyard.” But it wasn’t until her last breath many years later she disclosed to him her belief that his junkyard dream would come to be.
Kvarnes wasn’t quite sure, until not long after her death Charles K. “Pete” Estes told him his Sperryville junk lot was for sale and would he like to buy it? Though mom’s words echoed in Kvarnes’ head, he declined. But Estes kept on Kvarnes until he relented, and the rest is history.
Raised in Chevy Chase, Md., Kvarnes studied glassmaking in Vermont while attending Goddard College. Working part time as a clown, he had also learned how to ride a unicycle — which came in handy careerwise. For soon talented glassworker Bob Birch agreed to mentor him if Kvarnes would only teach him how to ride that wobbly bike.
In the glassblowing business for 30 years, Kvarnes now owns and operates Glassworks, crafting beautiful art using glass-colored beads from Germany. A jack-of-all-trades, Kvarnes made his own propane furnace capable of reaching the required 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit over a three-day period running full time.
Working with local ironsmith Steve Berry, Kvarnes makes lovely table top torchiers. Other talented artists are represented in the shop as well, including his son’s paperweights.
Like most retail businesses, Glassworks is struggling some due to the economy. Only able to afford running the furnace part time now, Kvarnes will have it fired up for the tour to give glassblowing demonstrations. He said about the necessity of pulling back on his beloved craft, even with furnace close by, “it’s like handing a fiddler an instrument without strings.”