'Before and After the Storm' exhibit shows contrasts


Jan Swoope



An exhibition of artwork by Columbus resident Virginia Lloyd Eselin, titled "Before and After the Storm: A Retrospective/A New Beginning," is open at the Columbus Arts Council''s Rosenzweig Arts Center in Columbus. The public is invited to a gallery reception Thursday, July 15, from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Center at 501 Main St. 


Eselin attributes the show and a change in her artistic style to Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed much of her accumulated work and her longtime adopted home in Pascagoula. This forced a return to her birthplace in the Golden Triangle, to begin a period of recovery and reinvention. 


The exhibit of approximately 35 canvases represents the artist''s evolving style, from still lifes to more recent semi-autobiographical collages. And Eselin''s abstract landscapes painted post-Katrina are a decided departure from her earlier work. 




Back to roots 


"From the time I was a little girl, I loved making art; my family always encouraged me," said Eselin, who cites Margaret Smith and Betty Jane Kerby of Columbus as early art instructors who influenced her. 


Having graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Mississippi State College for Women (now Mississippi University for Women) in 1958, Eselin has recently returned to studio classes at her alma mater. 


"I had wonderful teachers at the W," she said. "They were so nurturing and made such an impression on my life. And now, I cannot tell you what it''s meant to me to be down at the W again, in the art and design department. Those people are such talented, wonderful teachers." 


Eselin, a breast cancer survivor, also battled through the devastation of Katrina. The struggle to adjust after losing their home has been a testing challenge for the artist and her husband, Thomas. 


She lost her studio and much of her work. One of her paintings, she recounts, was "found down the street by neighborhood children after the storm." Telltale damage to some of her paintings'' mats still bear witness to that traumatic time. 


But Eselin describes herself as "one of those people who makes lemonade." 


"This is my third act; this is my chance to paint seriously," she stated. "I feel like I''ve come full circle. I''ve come back to my roots." 


Accomplished in a variety of art media, Eselin has had several solo shows and won various prizes and awards including a Halycone Barnes and a Hosford Fontaine award. 


She has taught art in public schools in Dallas, Texas, Columbus, Moss Point and Pascagoula, where she developed and directed the city''s art center and Old Depot Art Gallery, as well as the senior citizens'' center. 


Eselin is a member of Kappa Pi honorary art fraternity, the Mississippi Art Colony, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Columbus Arts Council; she is an affiliate member of the Gallery Co-Art of Biloxi. She and her husband have three children and three grandchildren. 


For more information about this exhibit or other arts events, contact the Columbus Arts Council at 662-328-2787, or visit www.columbus-arts.com.


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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