Fully schooled, and fired-up, for November’s artist tour

This is the first in a series of visits with new artists on the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community’s (RAAC) eighth annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio & Gallery Tour this Nov. 2-3.

Tour details

The two day Artists of Rappahannock Open Studio and Gallery event is scheduled for Nov. 2 and 3, rain or shine. Tickets are $10 for the two-day event and can be purchased at the Washington fire hall, where visitors can preview artists’ work and pick-up a map to studios and galleries. Visit raac.org for more information.

The Rappahannock Association of Arts in the Community welcomes one new host artist (and many returning) in this year’s ninth annual Studio and Gallery Tour Nov. 2-3.

Washington, D.C. native Tom Mullany began focusing seriously on art as a career in 1980. He soon met his future wife, Kerrie, at the Corcoran School of Art, from which they both graduated in 1985.

Soon afterwards, Mullany exhibited around the D.C. area, which proved a strong market for him during that time of economic upturn and launched his career. Among the notable venues, he showed at Troyer Gallery in Dupont Circle.

In 1996, the husband and wife team moved to Rappahannock, buying a house and adjacent “in-law house” now turned studio.

Last September, the Mullanys opened up Flint Hill’s The Studio School — where they will exhibit during the tour — as part of Mullany Art Studios. “It’s going well,” wife Kerrie said, leaning back in colored rockers adorning the studio’s porch.

Making a living earlier as a “faux” interior decorating painter, Kerrie now runs after-school workshops for children at the studio, while Tom works with adults. They also host programs taught by such other local artists as Barbara Heile and Charles Flickinger.

Indeed, inside the school looks like a very busy gathering place: Students’ art dripping off every wall, oodles of brushes bunched together in old Mason jars and a variety of mediums ready for use.

The students paint different still-life subjects, such as sunflowers growing outside their studio, candles, glasses, skulls — whatever is laying around — and painting on old wooden boards, canvas, cardboard boxes, plate glass and bristle board.

Kerrie and Tom Mullany pose amid the works in progress at their Studio School in Flint Hill, where Tom Mullany’s work makes its debut on RAAC’s annual Studio and Gallery Tour Nov. 2-3. Photo by Megan S. Smith.
Kerrie and Tom Mullany pose amid the works in progress at their Studio School in Flint Hill, where Tom Mullany’s work makes its debut on RAAC’s annual Studio and Gallery Tour Nov. 2-3. Photo by Megan S. Smith.

Mullany’s work has been shown locally at R.H. Ballard, which is also on the tour this year. Locals may recall his work on the cartoon “Forever Endeavor,” carried by the Rappahannock News.

Mullany is an artist of broad range — painter, sculptor, muralist and illustrator — using figures, landscapes and architecture. Mostly inspired by “pre-modernists” and using “unique imaginative imagery,” Tom sometimes paints large murals — as long as 53 feet — at many D.C.-area venues, including The Winery at Bull Run.

Struggling slightly to describe his work in a nutshell, Tom said he incorporates many eras of art, and is influenced by “the best of all centuries” as he strives to keep it “rooted in thousands of years of history, but still be beautiful.” It’s “like combining low arts with high arts,” he surmised.

His work often blossoms from a “funny little idea” stolen from a life observation, but turns more serious as it progresses, ending in a social commentary of sorts.

He’s working on a mural commissioned by a law firm encompassing many historical D.C. landmarks, using an interesting perspective he coins as “compression of time.” He acquires a “vague knowledge” of what the customer wants and era represented, then carries out “historical research,” he said, “which I love to do.”

“They start as stories and end as compositions,” he concluded.

Exhibiting along with the Mullanys for the tour weekend is guest artist Candace Clough (mosaics) of Flint Hill.

Potter Lynne Horning’s beautiful property perched on a Washington hilltop is Rappahannock at its best.

Among the artists returning to the tour this year, in her case after several years absent, Horning uses a gas-assisted wood kiln — which she had installed by North Carolina kiln makers in 2005 — with salt and sodium heating up to 2300 degrees to create lovely functional pottery.

An art history major, Horning mostly practiced weaving out of college but also painted. She and her husband of 53 years, Joe, built their hilltop house about 10 years ago, though they first moved to Rappahannock in 1981.

But it wasn’t until their kids were old enough that “I saw for the first time, clay,” she said. She loved it and “never looked back.”

Potter Lynne Horning removes a success from her wood-fired kiln on a Washington hilltop. Photo by Megan S. Smith.
Potter Lynne Horning removes a success from her wood-fired kiln on a Washington hilltop. Photo by Megan S. Smith.

“You have to learn by fire,” Horning explained as she and assistant Kat Habib unloaded pottery together. The kiln is very sensitive “to both time and temperature.”

“It’s understanding glaze chemistry and firing,” Horning said. “Oh, I’m so excited about this!” she interrupted herself, pulling out a successful experiment from the kiln.

This kiln differs from Sperryville salt-kiln potter Susan Dienelt’s, Horning explained, in that it uses sodium and also that it is wood-stoked, which is “a lot of work!”

A former partner at the Troyer Gallery, Horning was inspired to wood-fire her kiln following a trip to Japan where she saw firsthand Anagama kilns. “We have to build a wood-kiln!” she told her husband, excitedly. And so they did.

Salt kiln usage is a lot of trial and error. “It’s a collaboration of artist, material and firing,” said Habib, eliciting a high-five from fellow salt-fire enthusiast Horning.

During the tour in November, Horning’s three guest artists are: Sarah Grenzeback, plein-aire and abstract painter; Richard Price, woodworker; and Annette Klayman, potter/hand-builder.