Three artists tackle diversity, energy, color and light

If you go

What: Seventh Annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio & Gallery Tour
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 5-6, with headquarters at Washington fire hall
Tickets and info: Pick up a map with driving directions at the fire hall; passes are $10 per person. For more information, call 540-675-3193 or visit raac.org.

This is the first in a series of weekly visits with some of the new and returning artists on this year’s Open Studio and Gallery Tour, sponsored by the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community (RAAC) every November.

The seventh annual Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community’s (RAAC) “Artists of Rappahannock Open Studio and Gallery Tour” (Nov. 5 and 6) will have 12 new artists on tour this year. Happily housed in Sperryville’s River District Arts, three of these – Sara Schneidman, Megan Smith, and Barbara Heile — show their love of color, texture, pattern and energy.

From her past, Sara Schneidman brings diversity to her work, which includes bright-colored paintings, ceramics, and designs made into rugs by Tibetan refugees.

In her youth, Schneidman was exposed to other cultures and countries, including Manila and Djakarta. To “process” later in life the hardships she saw then, she sketched the “shapes of things” in black and white. As her “sense of self got clearer,” her work incorporated bright, uplifting colors.

SARA SCHNEIDMANN works in bright-colored paintings, ceramics, and designs made into rugs by Tibetan refugees. Photo by Megan Smith.
SARA SCHNEIDMANN works in bright-colored paintings, ceramics, and designs made into rugs by Tibetan refugees. Photo by Megan Smith.

“My art is really about changing the energy [in a person],” Schneidman says, “alchemy in a sense” and “the expression of spirit.” Her paintings “attempt to create a visual dance, and convey movement, energy and beauty.”

With a bachelor’s in ceramic and photography, Schneidman worked as a picture editor for Time-Life Books and an art teacher in Baltimore, and currently owns a gallery in Culpepper. “I believe that regardless of our culture,” she says, “abstract shapes and colors affect everyone in a similar manner.”

Barbara Heile has found her joy for art in discovering the relationship between color and light, using oil paints on canvas, fiberboard and wood panels.
Heile adeptly uses complementary colors to “find color in the shadow,” which, she adds, “is a rich place to go.”

BARBARA HEILE is interested in “color, form, the play between light and dark.” Photo by Megan Smith.
BARBARA HEILE is interested in “color, form, the play between light and dark.” Photo by Megan Smith.

Maryland-born but raised in a military family that moved every two years (Hawaii, Italy, Germany), Heile later moved from California to Rappahannock to be closer to family. She has painted ever since college and taught art for three years at Warrenton’s Lord Fairfax Community College.

After living in a household of men (a husband, three grown boys, a male cat and dog), Heile moved to Germany for a year in 2010 which changed her art form from plein aire landscapes to painting “from the inside out.” She began “trusting” what was inside and now calls her art form “expressive contemplation.”

“The [observational] experience that [the viewer is] having,” she explains, “is really the subject of the painting: color, form, the play between light and dark, and the touch of the artist” are all part of this “participatory” experience on part of the viewer. “Everyone sees something different.”

But even though her happiness is apparent in her cheerfully painted work, she believes that shadows are “rich and not to be avoided. I’ve learned a lot in the shadows.”

Megan Smith points her artistic energy in a different direction, creating abstracts on diverse materials such as canvasses, old windows, and screen doors.

MEGAN SMITH’s abstracts, including this 18-foot work, involve her “viscerally and physically.” Staff Photo/Roger Piantadosi.
MEGAN SMITH’s abstracts, including this 18-foot work, involve her “viscerally and physically.” Staff Photo/Roger Piantadosi.

“I attack my art viscerally and physically, using my entire body to throw, drip, splatter, and drizzle acrylics on large canvasses,” Smith says of the works, some as large as 18 feet. Often working outside, she takes cues from nature or events such as 9/11, which inspired her “Blood on the Hudson.”

Like Schneidman, Smith’s path to art has been a journey. She has been a professional singer, touring the world as a country/folk duo with her sister; with a master’s in biology, a renewable energy lobbyist; a screenwriter and journalist. Does this background show up in her work? “Perhaps,” she says, pointing to her mother (an artist) and father (an engineer) who also play a part in her bizarre career path. “But mostly I’m inspired by the natural highs and lows in life,” she says, adding, “If I’m in a ‘flat’ mood, the creativity doesn’t come.”