‘She’ll be forever with us’ amherst county native queena stovall subject of exhibit, new book, historical marker lifestyle newsadvance.com west la college summer classes

Famous for depicting everyday events in the lives of both white and black families in her home of amherst county, stovall’s artistic career began at the age of 62 when her brother convinced her to take an art class at randolph-macon woman’s college.

The class happened to be taught by pierre daura, who became the first of many, including artist grant reynard and new york art dealer antoinette kraushaar, to champion her work.

“here was this 62-year-old woman who lived on a farm in amherst, totally removed from the professional art world,” says ellen schall agnew, the former director of the maier museum of art at randolph college and the independent curator of lynchburg college’s current stovall exhibit.

“she kind of had one foot in the rural, agrarian lifestyle that sustained her family but then also had one foot dealing with artists and art galleries in new york.”

maier museum

Stovall’s paintings have been included in various exhibits, from the virginia museum of fine arts (VMFA), which also purchased one of her award-winning pieces, to the 1982 world’s fair in knoxville, tennessee, to the american embassy in paris in 1988.

“you have the feeling she’s lived what she’s painted,” beatrix T. Rumford told the virginian-pilot in a 1975 interview; rumford was the director of the folk art collection at the abby aldrich rockefeller folk art collection in williamsburg, where stovall’s work was on display at the time.

“there is a gentleness to her work, but it isn’t idealized. It’s not nostalgic, there’s flint to it,” rumford was quoted as saying. “… queena’s world is bittersweet.”

Stovall’s brief artistic career, which spanned less than 20 years, has earned her a place among the ranks of other folk artist greats, like grandma moses and clementine hunter.Maier museum stovall, who died in 1980 at the age of 92, was one of eight inducted into the library of virginia’s women in history program in 2010.

“she was very much an artist who was significant in her time, but increasingly so now in the growing appreciation and understanding of folk art as art unqualified, [and] the importance of self-taught artists,” says daura gallery director barbara rothermel. “certainly within the realm of untrained artists she was very important and remains so.”

Although the amherst county artist has had posthumous shows at the maier museum in 1985 and at lynchburg college in 2009, the current exhibition, which will travel to the virginia museum of history & culture in richmond after it finishes its run in lynchburg on april 13 , marks a special occasion.Maier museum

The show, “inside looking out: the art of queena stovall,”features the largest collection of stovall’s paintings ever shown together. In total, 44 of her 49 original oil paintings, along with five reproductions, are presently filling the walls of the daura gallery’s front room.

Among the originals are “swing low, sweet chariot” and “end of the line,” both of which agnew says are locally famous because of the many recognizable figures who make appearances in the works, including funeral director carl B. Hutcherson sr.

"Swing low sweet chariot," october 1953, oil on canvas, 28 1/4 x 40 in. From the collection of maier museum of art at randolph college, photographed by nancy marion

“it’s very overwhelming, first of all, just to see all of it and to see some of the paintings side by side that she never even saw together,” says laughon, who recently brought her own grandchildren to the exhibit.Says agnew “… you feel very full of emotion.”

Pieces have been loaned by the VMFA, the museums of oglebay institute in west virginia, the fenimore art museum in cooperstown, new york, and the maier museum. The daura gallery, which holds the largest public collection of stovall’s work, brought out its seven pieces as well.

Other works, some of which have not been seen since they were purchased in the early 1950s, have also come from private collections in washington, florida, virginia and north carolina, agnew says.

“some of them, we knew the collections where they were originally, but finding descendants or some that have been sold was an investigatory process,” rothermel says.

“having them all assembled in one room gives you just this wonderful opportunity to see the breadth of her work and the evolution of how she painted,” says agnew.Daura gallery

The exhibition, which rothermel says was years in the making, might never have happened at all if laughon had not stumbled upon a gallery catalogue about daura, her grandmother’s first and only art teacher.

While leaving lynchburg college’s last stovall exhibit in 2009, laughon says she noticed a book about daura’s work and thought it was an ideal format to showcase her grandmother’s paintings.

“my generation had to do this. We are the last generation that really knew her, that could help with kind of putting the pieces together,” laughon says. “so, we just wanted to sort of establish her legacy in the art world and share it with the world. I never imagined it would turn out quite like it has.”

Titled after the exhibition, the large, 104-page hardback book marks the first time all of stovall’s works have been printed in color, says agnew.Daura gallery the book also includes two scholarly essays, one written by rothermel and the other by agnew, that examine her career and analyze her various works.

Readers still glimpse the richness of color and amount of detail in each painting from within the pages, says agnew, a reminder that, while untrained, stovall had an eye for composition and portraiture.

“seeing claudine [weatherford]’s book, it really wasn’t a book of her paintings that would show her as an artist,” says laughon, referencing the 1986 biography weatherford wrote about her grandmother. “we need[ed] something that you would put on your coffee table and look at.”

“there’s something for the ages. For our grandchildren to go back and look at. This book today, you would put it on your coffee table, you would pick it up and leaf through it.Maier museum it’s a reality.”

In addition to publishing the new book, the daura gallery also sponsored the historic marker, which will be placed along virginia 130 in madison heights, less than half a mile from the farm where stovall lived for 35 years and painted her famous works.

“there are a lot of markers in the lynchburg area, which is terrific, and I think this adds yet another dimension,” rothermel says. “there are certainly historical individuals, events, and this one specific to an artist, along with one dedicated to [fellow local artistic legend] georgia morgan, is a great compliment to the strength of the arts in lynchburg.”

The new marker, like the book, will continue to draw attention to stovall’s contributions and continue the conversation about her ongoing significance, even after the exhibit has headed to richmond, says agnew.Says agnew

“the other night, I drove out [near the marker site] and there was the most beautiful sunset and those deep blue ridge mountains all across the sky,” laughon says. “it was like, ‘no wonder you painted this all the time.’”

– the exhibition “inside looking out: the art of queena stovall” is currently on display in lynchburg college’s daura gallery, 1501 lakeside dr, through april 13. The show will then travel to the virginia museum of history & culture in richmond, where it will run from may 12 through october 14.

– A book featuring stovall’s work, also called “inside looking out: the art of queena stovall,” will be highlighted during a reception and book signing from 5 to 7 p.M. Thursday, march 22, in the daura gallery. The catalogue costs $40 and will be for sale during the event.Daura gallery it also can be purchased at the gallery during regular hours.

– the unveiling and dedication of stovall’s virginia historical highway marker will be held at 4 p.M. Saturday, march 24, near the elon ruritan club, 2120 elon road, madison heights. A reception will follow.