Home again: painter returns to roots, inspiration in Columbus

 

Virginia Branch is pictured Tuesday with several of her acrylic paintings to be featured in the exhibit Modern Florals and Mystical Landscapes at the Columbus Arts Council's Rosenzweig Arts Center in October. The public is invited to an opening reception Thursday from 5:30-7 p.m.

Virginia Branch is pictured Tuesday with several of her acrylic paintings to be featured in the exhibit Modern Florals and Mystical Landscapes at the Columbus Arts Council's Rosenzweig Arts Center in October. The public is invited to an opening reception Thursday from 5:30-7 p.m. Photo by: Jan Swoope/Dispatch Staff

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

Virginia Branch has come home again. Her art has been inspired by it. After more than three decades away, the fifth-generation native of Columbus returned to her hometown two years ago and lives in the antebellum home Sunnyside, which her parents purchased in the 1970s.

 

"I was just homesick. I always wanted to come back home," the artist said. "My husband's job took us around the country, but I convinced him he needed to come with me to Columbus. I missed the small town (atmosphere) and have lots of family here."

 

Her late mother's gardens at Sunnyside, as well as Lowndes County's landscapes -- the river, in particular -- have influenced Branch's most recent acrylic paintings in a new Columbus Arts Council exhibit, Modern Florals and Mystical Landscapes, at the Rosenzweig Arts Center in October. The public is invited to an opening reception from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at the arts center at 501 Main St.

 

 

Bright, bold florals will be predominant in the show, complemented by a selection of landscapes more tonal in value and with an ethereal quality.

 

"I've called my still lifes 'modern florals' because I want to convey that they are not typical, classical paintings, but creative interpretations," Branch said. "I've gravitated toward flowers. I think my mother was an influence. She always had beautiful flowers in the garden, and she'd bring them in the house. She was very creative and loved to make the house beautiful with flower arrangements."

 

Branch's landscapes are impacted by scenes of Mississippi farming and her strolls at the Riverwalk.

 

"I love to walk along the Tombigbee River at the Riverwalk, and I'm always taking photos of the river in various lights," she said.

 

To create atmosphere and texture in her landscapes, Branch first preps the canvas with burlap and plaster of Paris. Once that is sanded, several layers of acrylic paint are applied, followed by a clear isolation coat, which helps protect the painting. She then finishes with a cold wax, which gives the impression of an encaustic, or hot wax, painting.

 

"I love trying new techniques and styles," Branch said. "It brings such pleasure to paint in bright, bold colors and then to completely change my color palette and paint more tonal paintings."

 

 

Early on

 

Branch's interest in art began at a young age.

 

"Ever since I can remember, I've always drawn, from the time I could hold a crayon or pencil," she said.

 

Her mother, Helen Maute Evans, finished at Mississippi University for Women as an art major, and Branch's formal art studies began while still in high school, when she took art classes from MUW's Larry Feeney and Charles Ambrose. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and studied for a year at Reading University in England. From there, she was able to travel extensively and study the masters.

 

While her latest work is acrylic and mixed media, Branch has also had a mural and hand-painted furniture business, taught 18th-century Chancery calligraphy and is a portrait artist.

 

Her latest work reveals some of the inspiration Branch discovered after returning to Mississippi and Columbus, to the home her parents lived in, to the second-story landing there where she creates her canvases.

 

"Every day that I can paint is a blessing as well as an adventure," she said.

 

Modern Florals and Mystical Landscapes will be displayed through October in the arts center's main gallery. A photography exhibit by Gillian Furniss, "An Untourist in New York City," will be up in the arts center's Artist Alley. For more information, contact the CAC, 662-328-2787 (closed Mondays), or visit columbus-arts.org.

 

 

IF YOU GO:

 

WHAT: Free reception, Modern Florals and Mystical Landscapes

 

WHO: Virginia Branch of Columbus/Columbus Arts Council

 

WHERE: Rosenzweig Arts Center, 501 Main St., Columbus

 

WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 4, 5:30-7 p.m.

 

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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