Local artist’s watercolor works in special exhibit

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When Virginia Meadows was in college, she suddenly found herself immersed in a revolution of the art world.

An art major in the early 1960s at Towson State College (now Towson University), she was studying traditional styles using traditional mediums: oil paint, egg tempera and watercolors. But suddenly, Abstract Expressionism — a form that first appeared more than a decade prior — was all the rage. And Towson, located in Baltimore just a few hours from trend-setting New York City, was caught up in the new movement.

“I went to the hardware store and bought enamel paint and, of course, plenty of turpentine,” Meadows said. Using a bedsheet as her canvas, she began to experiment.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said, “and the teachers had no idea how to grade us.”

Today, she reflects on that period as an exciting time.

“I think it would be similar to when Impressionism got into France,” she said. “It was that kind of thing. Nobody knew what they were doing, and everybody was trying everything.”

Still, her instructors had preferences, which continue to influence Meadows’ painting even today.

“I paint big,” she said, “because the rules were: if you want a decent grade in art, big is better than small, ugly is better than pretty, different is better than the same.”

She still does abstract works, though not exclusively. She also paints fast-action faces, photorealistic still lifes and more. And she still paints in oil, egg tempera and watercolor.

A dozen of her works are included in a special exhibit running concurrently with the Jacksonville Watercolor Society’s Members Juried Fall Show in the Westbury Parish Hall and Formation & Arts buildings of Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra. The exhibit ends Nov. 28.

Learning and Teaching

As a child, Meadows was always that student who was good at art. In fact, one of her earliest memories was related to her artistic experimentation, though reviews were not good.

“I remember getting in trouble when I was somewhere around kindergarten or first grade, because I was taking crayons, and I discovered that the stove we had could melt them,” she said, laughing.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, she returned to Towson for her master’s, for which she had to select a specific area of concentration. She chose watercolor.

She and her husband moved to Northeast Florida in the 1970s and built a home in Ponte Vedra Beach, where they lived for 30 years before relocating to Cypress Village.

Meadows taught art classes at the children’s museum in Jacksonville and then at a school in Ponte Vedra. When there was an opening at Jacksonville Country Day School, she began teaching there, remaining there for 20 years.

Since coming to Northeast Florida, she joined several groups that specialized in art or crafts and exhibited her work at a variety of venues, including the Riverside arts and crafts shows.

One of her key affiliations is with the Jacksonville Watercolor Society, where she has been a member pretty much since the beginning. She was named the Society’s “Artist of the Year” for 2021. The Society is organizing the current exhibit.

The Exhibit

Meadows said those visiting the show will see a variety of her works: paintings of faces, abstract work, “a little bit of everything.” Some pieces are new, and others are drawn from her years as an artist.

Her special exhibit is located in the Westbury Parish Hall, which will be open between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.

Christ Episcopal Church is located at 400 San Juan Drive, Ponte Vedra Beach.

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