A solo exhibition of the work of St. Albans artist Deborah McHenry will be on display in the Maxwell Gallery of the Randolph County Community Arts Center. "Deborah McHenry: A Solo Exhibition of Recent Works" will open during the 10th Annual Arts Center Gala on Friday at 6 p.m. Tickets for the Gala event may be purchased by phone or in the Arts Center office.
McHenry, was born and raised in Parkersburg. She graduated from the University of Charleston summa cum laude with Bachelor of Arts in political science and from the West Virginia University College of Law, Order of the Coif. She is a trial lawyer with The Segal Law Firm with an emphasis in wrongful death, catastrophic personal injury, mass litigation and class actions.
Her lifelong love of art began at the age of 10 when she was given a gift of art lessons at the local art center. McHenry recalls, "The class was a studio class. We sat in a circle with easels and side tables and were introduced to pencil and watercolor. I remember those classes fully to this day-the smells, the colors and the instructor in the center moving from student to student."
A solo exhibition of the work of St. Albans artist Deborah McHenry will be on display in the Maxwell Gallery of the Randolph County Community Arts Center through Nov. 17. McHenry is shown here with students in the Artworks program at the Roosevelt Center in Charleston.
"Coming Full Circle," one of the works she created in this class in 1966, is included in her exhibit. McHenry continues, "That experience is the foundation for my belief that community arts centers where all the arts are celebrated, encouraged and promoted are vital to communities and to our well-being as a society."
McHenry is widely respected for establishing and running the program Artworks at the Roosevelt Center in Charleston. "The past several years I have been doing direct social action using art as a tool for skill development and the building of self-esteem among at-risk children and youth," notes McHenry. "The program started from the tragedy of a 17-year-old young man being shot to death by eight shots at point blank range on steps across the street from the center while others were present. Nobody spoke up. I attended a service in the center and found that I could not simply ignore what was happening in the neighborhood."
She continues, "With no real clue as to what I was about to become involved in, we started art and pizza. It has turned into so much more and has commanded a great deal of my free time. I have received much more than I have given. It has affected my art. At first, I thought it was not positive as it restricted the amount of time I had to give to my own creativity. But, I decided to use the tools I was using with the youth and it has been very positive-indeed taking me back to where I began-watercolors.
"I thought I was going to instruct the youth-instead they have instructed and changed me. I cannot talk about the art I am doing today without talking about them and how they influence me-not just in art-but in every way as they struggle to overcome unimaginable challenges and truly take care of themselves and each other," McHenry reflects.
According to McHenry, her art influences were first Rothko, Twombly, Motherwell, Raushenberg, Matisse, Judy Chicago, and other contemporary artists. "Now, I add a host of African-American artists that the youth challenged me to learn about and share with them - Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippen, William Henry Johnson, Augusta Savage, Elizabeth Catlett, Alma Thomas, Faith Ringgold, and many others who most of us are sadly not familiar with. Their influence is seeping into my work," she states.
McHenry notes, "I primarily enjoy abstraction. I relish the wonder, mystery and drama of it. I used to work predominantly in oils and acrylics, which I used thickly and often almost sculpturally. The watercolors I am doing are much more spontaneous and require more flexibility. There is a sense of fluidity and at times the joy of an ah-ha moment when you know you are done. For every completed painting there is another one that just did not work! I enjoy color, shape, light and texture. I hope that others, even if they do not care for nonobjective art, are able to sense the joy I have when playing with paint."
McHenry has exhibited at the Parkersburg Art Center, The Museum in the Community, The Huntington Museum of Art, The Art Emporium, The Good News Gallery, The University of Charleston, Concord College and Taylor Books. She is also a member of Allied Artists of West Virginia.
The Deborah McHenry solo exhibition will be open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Nov. 17. Weekend hours will be announced. Concurrently on exhibit in the Great Hall in the Tenth Annual Gala Juried Exhibition sponsored by Elkins Rehabilitation & Care Center.