Watercolor illustrations of children’s book Sid’s Backyard and Ceramics.
Never has an art exhibit celebrating western Pennsylvania’s natural beauty and forest creatures been more welcome than after being sequestered in our homes during COVID-19. Walk into a world of wonder, imagination, flora and fauna seen through the eyes of a child in the exhibit, Image and Word: A Fanciful Journey, at the Red Brick Gallery and Gift Shop (RBG), 17 Main Street, Foxburg. The exhibit is on display from Saturday, June 27 through Sunday August 2, 2020 on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 noon to 5:00 PM.
Due to the COVID shutdown, the RBG cancelled its first show and an exhibit of A-C Valley High School art students. The RBG, an arm of Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts, is reopening compliant with PA state guidelines and with precautions for the health and wellbeing of its patrons and artist personnel. All patrons are required to wear masks upon entering the RBG and to maintain social distancing requirements. Gloves and hand sanitizers will be available and masks for customers if they do not have them. Special care will be given to cleaning and sanitizing the building to maintain a safe environment.
Collaboration between three of its cooperative artists is the hallmark of this exhibit, which opens the RBG 2020 season. Vivid watercolor illustrations of botanical artist Donna Edmonds capture the whimsical excursion of a young boy in the children’s book, “Sid’s Backyard”, written by poet and author Andy Johnson. Ceramic artist Cheri Lee Yarnell incorporates images of plants and animals in her pottery, providing dimensional reality.
Artistic Director Donna Edmonds shared that “One of the very special aspects of the Red Brick Artist Co-op is the opportunity for collaboration with other artists. This project is the product of just such an artistic interplay. Andy’s story illustrated by my paintings and reflected in Cheri’s fanciful forms is a recipe for fun and delight for all ages!”
The vision and inspiration of western Pennsylvania potter, Cheri Lee Yarnell, is ideally paired with images from “Sid’s Backyard,” in which the narrator – a pet iguana - learns about the world by meeting animals, birds, and insects. “My work is a complement to this book, as many of my works have images of plants and animals, capturing a sense of wonderment of the natural world around us.” Yarnell’s pottery is primarily high-fired porcelain or stoneware involving alterations through manipulation and sculpting as she incorporates signature images of amphibians and other endangered and threatened species in her clay work.
“Sid’s Backyard” was born in the RBG when poet, author and professor Andy Johnson stumbled on a collection of Donna Edmond’s artwork. The book is the second in a series of six that Johnson is writing for each of his grandchildren. He had the basic story written in his head but no idea how to enrich the text and themes with images. “Discovering Donna’s art, I knew it would be perfect for the story because it held the purity and innocence of nature which is paramount to the story.”
Almost the entire book takes place in a dream where the narrator, Sid’s pet iguana, Nacho, escapes into the backyard and has encounters with all sorts of animals. Johnson said, “I give each of these animals a distinct voice and have them tell Nacho what they do. I have tried to create tension between the innocence of these critters and our human condition. Along with the rich world of the unconscious, Donna Edmond’s beautiful watercolors remain a constant source of inspiration.”
After retirement from a career as a corporate executive, Donna Edmonds studied Botanical Art and Illustration at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden and has been an instructor there, teaching classes for the Botanical Art and Illustration Certificate Program. Founder of the Red Brick Gallery artist cooperative, Edmonds stated that, “Although I can be considered an artist, I think I am really an explorer. I am attracted, not so much to the act of painting, as to the subjects that I illustrate. God’s creation enthralls, captivates and awes me by its diversity, complexity and beauty. Painting is my way of engaging and interacting with that breathtaking, fascinating, endlessly complex beauty and in so doing, seeking the face of the Creator.”
Describing the Red Brick Gallery as a catalyst for this project, Andy Johnson said, “The RBG has become a center, a place for artists, writers, and musicians to meet and grow their art. It is also a magnet for artists, art appreciators and collectors to enjoy exhibits in a relaxed and beautiful setting.”
In its 2020 season the gallery will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 noon to 5:00 PM at 17 Main Street in Foxburg.
For more information, www.alleghenyriverstone.org or call 724-659-3153.