From February 15 through March 15, 2016, the exhibition “Watershed: New Work by Shay Clanton” will be on view at Mary Baldwin University’s Hunt Gallery. Born and raised in Alabama, Clanton has lived since 1993 on Walker Mountain near Deerfield, Va., where she maintains her studio. She received a BA with a combined major in studio art and art history from Mary Baldwin University and an MFA in painting and drawing from James Madison University. Clanton teaches drawing, painting, watercolor, and design at Mary Baldwin University, where she is an adjunct assistant professor of art. She also teaches watercolor workshops at the Beverley Street Studio School in Staunton.
For 10 years before Clanton moved to Deerfield, she lived on Hatteras Island, N.C., where she was instrumental in helping to save the Buxton Woods Maritime Forest and in to create the Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve. She is now involved in efforts to protect the George Washington National Forest, which borders her home in Deerfield, and in local watershed protection. Clanton is also a student of herbal medicine with a special interest in native medicinal plants of the Appalachian Mountains. Her land in Deerfield is managed as a botanical sanctuary for native medicinal plants; it is part of the Botanical Sanctuary Network created by United Plant Savers.
In her paintings — inspired by the forests, rivers, and streams of her home in the Virginia mountains and by the Alabama landscape of her birthplace — Clanton seeks to express what has informed her lifelong love of the natural world. In her abstracted watercolors of rivers and streams, she records through direct observation her perception of a moment in time and the movement and flux of light, shadow, color, and form. Her oil paintings are created in the studio and are based on her watercolors, photos, and drawings.
All of her work is informed by a personal and emotional connection to place. The quality of light in both a physical and spiritual sense is always an integral part of the work. Clanton says the following about her work in the exhibition at Mary Baldwin: “The paintings in this exhibition represent a portion of the watershed in which I live. It is a complex and interconnected system: the headwaters of the James River, Chesapeake Bay watershed. There is imminent threat to the integrity of the watershed and to this region by the possibility of hydrofracking for natural gas and by the proposal to construct a massive fracked gas pipeline called the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. This pipeline would cross, and radically affect, hundreds of miles of forest and farms, and hundreds of rivers and streams in this watershed, including the Calfpasture River and its tributaries. There is a groundswell of citizen protest that I have joined. Part of the impetus for this exhibition is to celebrate, through the process of painting, this portion of the watershed that I have such a personal connection to. My hope is that the paintings will communicate its complexity, its beauty, and its importance.”
A reception will be held for the artist from 4:30-6 p.m. on February 15 in Hunt Gallery. The public is invited to attend. Hunt Gallery is dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary work in all media by regionally and nationally recognized artists. The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, during the college’s academic year. Hunt Gallery’s schedule for the 2015-16 academic year can be found online.