Wilson Museum Kicks Off Season With Well-Regarded Regional Artists

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“Downtown Roanoke Rooftops” by Bill White.
“Downtown Roanoke Rooftops” by Bill White.

by Gene Marrano

The Fall-Winter season at the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum on the Hollins University campus kicks off with an exhibition from two homegrown artists – Troutville painter Bill White and Radford’s Jan Knipe, who favors drawings. Both taught at Hollins and have exhibited across the country.

White, a nationally known painter, has entitled his showing in the main gallery “Empathy and Engagement.” He favors interior and exterior landscapes, depicting downtown Roanoke, Paris and points in between. His work has also been shown at the Taubman Museum of Art.

“I don’t like to use the word “local” in terms of showcasing artists in this community,” said Amy Moorefield, director for the museum, “we all choose where we live these days. Roanoke and southwest Virginia have an immense [number] of artists that choose to make this area their home.” Both Knipe and White “helped shape the arts program” at Hollins, according to Moorefield.

White’s paintings demonstrate what Moorefield called “monumentality … an implied sense of scale, an immenseness. Bill is [also] an incredible colorist.” White makes up his own colors, which imbue his paintings with a vibrancy and a “living charge,” according to Moorefield, who said White also uses a sense of empathy in his work; “you feel like you’re part of the painting [or] in the space with Bill while he’s painting.” White’s Paris rooftop paintings and some depicting downtown Roanoke are part of his exhibition at the Wilson Museum.

Knipe, who taught at Hollins for more than 20 years, uses both traditional and handmade materials to create her drawings, which typically employ chalk, homemade pastels, charcoal and crayon. Knipe’s work has been exhibited in larger cities including San Francisco, New York City, Washington D.C.  “Jan is a raconteur of her medium, particularly in her new abstract drawings,” said Moorefield. “She really works the paper to its pinnacle – she’s an incredible talent.”

Both Knipe and White will kick off their showings with a lecture and reception on September 29. The Role of Empathy in Art (5:30 p.m., in the Neiderer Auditorium) features New York art historian Jennifer Samet. A reception follows. Knipe herself returns for a lecture and reception on November 10; Bill White does the same on December 1. Two full color catalogs with commentary from Moorefield will also be available at the opener next week.

The Knipe-White exhibit is the culmination of about three years’ work, according to Moorefield. White in particular  has been “incredibly prolific” since his retirement from Hollins, noted Moorefield. New works that have never been seen before will be part of the Wilson Museum show.

Moorefield has been determined to align the Wilson Museum with other institutions since she arrived at Hollins about three years ago. She’s worked with the galleries at Roanoke College, Washington & Lee University, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and elsewhere since then. “It’s letting the community know you’re willing to share your programming and work in collaboration,” said Moorefield, who came from galleries at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Look for other notable exhibitions once the current show moves on, including one that may include the works of Andy Warhol.  “Treasures from the Vault,” featuring donated pieces, and Bayous & Ghosts (artists Margaret Evangeline, Hunt Slonem) debuts on January 12. Moorefield notes that the Wilson Museum has about 1200 pieces in its permanent collection. Evangeline and Slonem are “best friends,” said Moorefield; their exhibit will focus on the “mystique” of Bayou country in Louisiana.

First things first—“we’re amping it up a bit,” said Moorefield of the Bill White / Jan Knipe works debuting on September 29. “These are significant exhibitions.”

See Hollins.edu and click on the link to the Wilson Museum for more information; hear an interview with Amy Moorefield this Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. on Roanoke this Week with Gene Marrano, on Fox Radio Roanoke 910 am.