RAAC Artists’ Tour: Two talented yet creatively diverse Donnas

By Veronika Benson
Special to the Rappahannock News

This year, the RAAC Artists’ Tour will feature two new artists, and although both are named Donna, they will offer very different examples of local talent.

Donna Brune is a painter who trained in horticulture, and lives on Persimmon Farm with her husband. As a girl, Donna adored sunsets, and began sketching them at a young age. The only other known artistic talent in her family was that of her maternal grandfather, who was a glass artisan. This is of particular interest because she never met the man, yet much of her work has a stained glass likeness.

By Veronika Benson
Donna Brune and one of her works, “‘Fire and Ice,” a mono-print using acrylic paints on a gel plate. By Veronika Benson

Her studio resembles a small basement apartment, its surroundings including many samplings of her colorful artwork set amongst natural wood. This appealing backdrop quickly makes one forget they’re in a basement. A wall of windows allows sunlight to enter her atelier, enhancing already abundant in-house lighting which serves to illuminate her work area.

Donna uses different surfaces for her art, and adds texture via layering and a mixing of mediums. Her favorite work is a painting she created after visiting Seneca Rocks in West Virginia; for this she used acrylic inks and watercolor on a surface called Yupo, a Japanese paper made of plastics. To capture ideas, she takes a great deal of photos; she does not however refer back to a photo while painting, as she wants her emotions (or perhaps her muse) to guide her work.

Donna gives credit for her talent to two of her favorite artists, Gerald Brommer and Barbara Nechis, under whom she studied. You’ll find the colors and textures in this artist’s works extraordinary, and her explanations on technique fascinating. On Saturday, November 4th, she will demonstrate how to create prints without a press, using gel plates. And on Sunday, the 5th, she will offer a second demonstration on working with watercolors.

The other new artist, Donna La Pre, works in an open, airy studio where scarves of various muted colors flow over a simple screen. These hand-dyed beauties combine with hanging woven vine sculptures, natural wood shelves, and exposed beams to provide visitors with the sense of standing at a clearing in the forest while enrobed in luxurious silk.

By Veronika Benson
Donna La Pre in studio and one of her hand-sewn fairies. Photos by Veronika Benson

Donna uses all-natural dyes to create the scarfs, as well as her delicately-crafted panels (45” x 72”). The manner in which her diaphanous, hand-sewn panels interact with light and movement is exquisite. One of these organza panels flutters aside a simply-clothed bed, beckoning guests to lie down and read poetry. It’s important to Donna that her art offer more than just an ephemeral encounter; she hopes her work will provide a fully sensual experience that is both lasting and renewable.

Donna uses elements of the Earth in most of her work, and truly enjoys incorporating the myriad of offerings Mother Nature provides. She takes pride in using all-natural and organic content, and is uncompromising when it comes to quality. The ethos of her former life in the fashion and retail industry persists in Donna’s contemporary work, which is at once labor-intensive and divinely imaginative. Donna learned to sew at the age of five, and plans to display her meticulously hand-sewn and embroidered ‘Fairytale Tokens’ during the tour. There are Pocket Princesses, Magical Abodes, Japanese Good Witches ( Onna-Makou-Tsukai), and Fairies.

“I just wanted to embroider tiny mementos of magical worlds,” Donna explains. “Because they’re so small, they’re private and make you slow down to take in the detail.” It takes her two full days to craft one these Lilliputian renderings, which can be held in the palm of your hand. One of the Magical Abodes, a tiny thatched house, was endearingly named “The Love Shack.”

Donna also manages to sustain a biodynamic garden on her property, and markets her various works online, and at the Village Market in Little Washington and at the Christmas in Little Washington event.


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