Artful change: New artists join Lunaria Gallery

March 2011 Posted in Arts, Culture & History

By Brenna WiegandTonya Smithburg is one of several new artists featured at Lunaria, and one of three exhibiting work in March.

With a fresh paint job, rearranged gallery space and six new artists, a fresh wind of inspiration is blowing through Lunaria Gallery.

The March show demonstrates the diversity of Lunaria Gallery’s newly juried-in members. Jane Godfrey is 72; Tonya Smithburg is 22 – and Helen Weins somewhere in between.

“That’s an interesting age range,” Barbara Bassett of the gallery said. “It brings a lot of new energy, life experience and perspective.”

The painter, glass artist and jewelry designer are linked through aspects of their work reflecting the Art Nouveau style.

“Art Nouveau involves a lot of curly, graceful lines and includes vining stems, leaves and flowers,” Helen Weins said. “I love that style and it comes out in my jewelry.”

Little did Weins know that the simple beading techniques shared by a friend would spark an insatiable desire to keep reaching for the next project; the next level. Weins fell into a world of limitless possibilities when she took a silversmithing class.

“I love the metal; the way it moves when you hit it with a hammer – not to mention that it’s a great way to take out aggression as well,” she said.

It was difficult maintaining a home studio with three young children in attendance. Their names – Callie, Luke and Sam – are the basis for Calusa Studio, now located in downtown Salem. A statistician in the public health arena, as her jewelry became more popular and her passion and confidence grew, one day her husband Jon said, “Why don’t you do that full time?”

It took awhile, but Weins came to understand that, although she is putting herself out there, what she does is just not for everybody and that shouldn’t be taken personally.

These days, Weins teaches, is a leader in several community art groups and holds “open studio” nights when other artists can use her studio space – but the other 50 percent of her time, she said, goes to marketing.

With her long blond dreadlocks and easy going attitude, Tonya Smithburg looks like she’s ready for a trip to Jamaica – which is where she’ll be this month, painting the inside and outside of a beachfront restaurant. Local mural painter Lori Webb enlisted Smithburg in touching up those in Silverton, which has led to her own commissions in homes and businesses.

The youngest Lunaria member at 22, Smithburg has drawn for as long as she can remember. She was blessed with encouraging art instructors who widened her scope of mediums and encouraged her to participate in competitions, giving her confidence to continue with this natural passion. Name a medium and she’s probably played with it.

“Doing art helps keep me balanced,” she said. “I feel like I’m using my abilities and that it’s something I can contribute to the world around me.”

Her current work is bold with strong color, flowing lines and a tendency to zoom in on subjects that capture her interest.

“With art as a tool I hope to inspire,” she said. “I believe art is many things, including a language and a lifestyle. I plan to continue on with my art, experiencing where it leads me; creating from the beauty I see around me.”

Jane Godfrey collaborates with her business partner Sondra Radcliffe on nearly all the work coming out of their studio, Ambiente Art Glass. With a master’s degree in social work and a Ph.D. in cultural psychotherapy, Godfrey did not do artwork until she was in her 30s.

“I began to express myself through drawings and flute playing when I lived in Europe and southern Spain for 14 months,” she said. “It was there that the artist within me was birthed and where I learned that it is the process of art that is most important and not the product.”

When she returned, Godfrey began exploring many art forms and became fascinated with “the magic of glass.”

“Because of my age I have had many unique experiences that have shaped and reshaped me again and again … Every person I encounter impacts me in some way and as a psychotherapist for many years each client or group of clients taught me more than I taught them. All life experiences are in those depths of me that I pull upon when I express myself artistically.”

While running a 25-person business can be challenging, Bassett said resources, including more computer and technology savvy; teaching and marketing experience poises the gallery to shift to a higher level.

“The complexion of the gallery is changing in the way it functions and in our ability to communicate with all of our customers,” said Bassett, adding that the small-town advantages remain.

“Here, the artist will often come down to meet you – something you don’t often find in a big gallery.”

The other new members of Lunaria Gallery include Jane Castelan Buccola, pastels and oil paintings; Bonnie Taylor Talbot, mixed media; and Deborah Unger, sculpture. Additionally, jewelry maker Emily Start has returned to Lunaria after a three-month hiatus.

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