The Montgomery Museum of Art and History (MMAH) is becoming a draw for local citizens. An early reception in the new facility drew about 50 art lovers. The next event attracted 100 people, and the most recent gathering more than 200. The museum’s mission is to appeal to all citizens of all generations. For years the museum has reached out to students throughout the New River Valley and intends to contact them about future exhibits. The next art exhibit will feature works by students from Christiansburg High School grades 9 through 12. Led by art teachers Carrie Lyons and Taylor Hanks, the students have been working hard to complete their works in time for the exhibit opening March 2 and continuing through April. The students are responsible for framing the art and hanging it in the museum. By subject? By frame color? By theme? There are lots of choices, and decisions on how to display the works are part of the artistry.
Those of us who live in Montgomery County are fortunate to have a school system that values and promotes the arts. Some of the presenting students have taken Advanced Placement (college level) art class twice—once for painting and again for sculpture. Students who can’t fit art into their schedule but still paint in their spare time can join the Art Club and submit works for inclusion in the show.
The variety of media in the show speaks to both the program’s broad educational reach and to the choice to let the more advanced students take the lead on what inspires and works for them. For example, students made a still-life of a skull (à la Georgia O’Keefe) from the angle of their choice and zoomed in or out. The viewer would not know they were painting the same thing. The exhibit includes works in collage, gouache, ink, acrylic, watercolor, alcohol markers, and more. An intricate work showing a lush garden scene was done with ink and a dip pen, which is something like a quill and not the easiest tool to use. If you went to school before 1950 and the invention of the ball point pen, you may have struggled with one of these things. The MMAH exhibit also features some three-dimensional art including sculpture and ceramics. There are cupcakes and pancakes and fabric dogs and ceramic pumpkins and a piece depicting Disney rides. A rendition of a eukaryotic cell is made from beads.
In some cases Lyons gave the students a broad theme to work with such as Journey or Sustained Investigation. One journey painting shows a skeleton reaching out toward the path to be taken with a cat alongside as a companion. Another painting from the journey series shows a shark in a coral reef and kelp forest with a volcano in the background. A girl with an umbrella is another type of journey. A sustained investigation painting of Notre Dame Cathedral depicted before and after the fire features the pieta sculpture “Descent from the Cross” that somehow survived the conflagration.
Many of the paintings feature objects or animals precious to the artist. A deep sea fish painting is one example. Another artist painted a collection of her Bratz dolls sitting on a shelf, as in “putting away childish things.” One painting is entitled “Fear of Cats.” Another painting is of a German Shepherd that died. Another maudlin puppy picture? Hardly. This dog repeatedly ran away and bit his owner, leaving a two-inch scar. Still, he was loved and is missed, and now he is immortalized having fun with his owner in a lake. A companion piece shows the town in Germany where the German Shepherds originated.
Christiansburg High School students will host (another part of the learning experience) an opening reception at the MMAH, 4 East Main Street in Christiansburg, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on March 2. People will come to support the students and stay to enjoy the art.