For St. Augustine’s own Martha Ferguson, the ability to exhibit her artwork as part of a Lightner Museum showcase was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Just to be in a museum, especially one like the Lightner is such a nice thing to have on the resume,” Ferguson said. “It’s a real honor for me.”
The exhibit was held June 3 to July 22 as part of the “Lightner Local” series, which was created to highlight the works of local artists.
“Lightner Local is supported by the Benjamin and Jean Troemel Arts Foundation here in town,” Lightner Museum Director David Bagnal said. “It allows us to bring in exhibitions by local contemporary artists and help us build a stronger sense of community.”
She was the second local artist to be selected as part of this year’s four-show series.
“It gives them different exposure, because it’s a slightly different audience than you might get at a commercial gallery,” Bagnal said. “We have visitors from all over the U.S. and internationally as well.”
Many of the pieces Ferguson had on display during the exhibit were painted recently in anticipation of the showcase.
“A lot of them I painted after I received the news that I had been selected,” Ferguson said. “I just got into that mode and started to paint.”
For Ferguson, that meant going out an experiencing the St. Augustine community, as all her work depicts scenes that take place on the local streets.
“Painting St. Augustine is my love,” Ferguson said.
Her first interaction with the area was when she moved down from her home state of West Virginia to go to Flagler College in the 1980s.
After meeting her husband, the couple moved to New Jersey where they lived for 30 years before eventually making it back to the First Coast, where a piece of their heart had never left.
“We always knew we’d come back,” Ferguson said. “We had always vacationed here and finally in 2009 we bought a house.”
One of the interesting things about St. Augustine being the theme of her artwork, is that all she has to do at times is walk out her front door and she could be inspired by what’s going on that day.
Her style of painting on location is called “plein air.”
“It’s a French term for painting in the open,” she said. “In New Jersey they had some plein air events, but down here, it seems like everybody paints plein air. I guess it’s the good weather.”
By painting the local scene, she believes it gives residents a sense of pride when they observe her paintings. That is the emotion she hopes her paintings capture within the people that view them.
“I love painting first thing in the morning, because that’s when the sun hits the streets pretty and it’s not as crowded, which is important,” Ferguson said. “Painting outside allows you to get a different perspective of the color. It’s just a different experience.”
Years ago, she started as a watercolor painter, but now she primarily uses the approach of oil colors on canvas.
Ferguson has been painting since she was in junior high, and she even took part in shows and sold some of her artwork even back then.
Years later, she found herself at the Lightner which was the first time she had been shown in a museum exhibit.
Ferguson believes the artist community around St. Augustine is full of talented creators and she enjoys how the area embraces its local art culture.
She encourages all aspiring local artists both young and old to trust in their work and find smaller shows to enter. One day they may end up in the Lightner.
“The biggest thing with art, is not being afraid to put your work out there,” Ferguson said. “I think that’s the case for every artist.”
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