Media and subjects: Oil paintings of landscapes, portraits and still lifes.
Projects you’re currently working on: I am currently working on a few landscape and pet portrait commissions as well as painting flowers for upcoming shows.
Why you joined MAA: To enjoy meeting local artists and participating in local shows.
Something fun about you: My other artistic passion is cooking and I went to culinary school. I am a personal chef to my three children and husband.
Paola Luther’s delicate touch and sense
of light and color infuses her broad range of art styles and mediums.
Paola has been painting since childhood. As an adult she became a professional
artist in fine arts and continues to expanded her skills under the tutelage of
artists from Washington DC, Los Angeles, Spain, Peru and Central America.
Paola has attended multiple workshops with talented artists around the
world. Traveling is a large part of Paola’s artistic inspiration. She has
produced colorful plein-air pieces, commissioned paintings and portraits.
Paola’s original works can be found in private collections in the United
States and Europe.
Jaime Downs grew up as the child who always drew in a non-artist family. A Pennsylvania native, she graduated in 1972 from Kutztown University. At the time she was working in oils for a brief period prior to switching to acrylics. And it was here she began her epic Onenessseries, one that she continues to work on even now.
Recognizing that she would need to do more than her painting to earn a livable income, Jamie continued on with her education. Further study at LaSalle College in Philadelphia and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, earned her a certificate in Art Administration in 1976. It was during this time she met her husband John and they had their children. The couple moved here 15 years ago.
Over the years Downs has worked in that art administration, as a newspaper photographer, graphic and web designer, and she ran a gallery. Additionally, a warm and encouraging personality has also made Downs a wonderful teacher in a career that has found her at Prince George’s Community College, Drexel University, the University of the District of Columbia and the school she currently teaches at, Montgomery College in Germantown.
After moving to Maryland, Downs got a studio in Takoma Park, and she continued to work in art administration besides teaching. She also had a sudden turn in her subject matter.
“For most of the time, [my] work has been a non-objective Jungian search of the collective unconscious; but 15 years ago it took an unexpected turn. Very large close-up images of flowers became a part of the mixed media paintings, and that began a new direction and inspired some new work for [me] …” (Artist’s Bio, December 20, 2015 by Artists & Makers Studios)
I asked Downs who her early influences were and she told me they included Helen Frankenthaler, Paul Jenkins, Georgia O’Keefe, Milton Avery, Adolph Gottleib, and James Brooks. Gottleib is considered the father of American Abstraction. These artists often worked very large and with the exception of Avery, chose brilliant colors. As with Downs’ art, their works explore their subjects with amorphous shapes that make the viewer use their own feelings and insights to understand what is being conveyed.
For Jamie Downs, her Oneness series has been successful beyond her imagination. Begun during her undergraduate days at Kutztown, “these paintings represent quite a bit of my history … The earliest [paintings in the series are] … are from around 1969-1972. I was 19 to 22 years old, finishing art school and very intrigued by Abstract Expressionism and the Jungian Collective Unconscious. I made a commitment to this search and have continued it since.” (The Search for Oneness: Fifty Years of Spiritually Based Art by Jamie Downs, Artists and Makers, January 6, 2019).
Downs told me that while not overtly religious in nature, they do explore her relationship with the world and the universe. They continue to evolve as life adds new experiences.
“In 2007 I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and had approximately a year and a half of chemo and clinical tests. At each treatment I did a healing painting.” (The Search for Oneness: Fifty Years of Spiritually Based Art by Jamie Downs, Artists and Makers, January 6, 2019). Her paintings contain not only the brightness of her chosen colors, but the glowing inner life of their creator.
Jaime Downs plans to keep right on painting, hoping that in 10 years she may be able to do it full time, but admitting that she might keep teaching occasionally (if new students are lucky, this writer thinks). The addition of her representational work 15 years ago, has just expanded her search for meaning in the world around her. It is a search that those of us fortuitous enough to be in her sphere get to experience first-hand, and those lucky enough to see in her shows realize how fortunate they are.
Winning the Bertha Klum Award was definitely a dream of mine – one that I hadn’t consciously identified until very recently. As 2019 begins, I can reflect on the last 12 months as a year of transformation for me as a new artist.
Renewing My Love for Creating Art
With the balancing act of tending to family and career, my artistic interests were dormant for a long time. In January of 2018, I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in ages, upon signing up for Glen Kessler’s phenomenal Painting Through the Lens Class at The Compass Atelier. It’s been a tremendous personal journey for me to immerse myself in a new painting ritual and finally embrace my creative and artistic side.
When I started contemplating entering the 2018 Kensington Labor Day show – an event I had admired for years as an art lover and collector – I never imagined winning two first-place awards as an artist myself. But the dreams kept happening, and the learning, confidence, course adjustments, and preparation occurred a little bit each day. The Bertha Klum award at the Kensington Labor Day show was a critical milestone for what is becoming an artistic career.
Surrounding Myself with Support
My family has adapted to a slightly obsessed new oil painter in their midst. While they are not always pleased when my time is divided, they give me the space I need and they beam with pride when I paint something I’m excited about.
Surrounded by a community of artists at Compass Atelier, Artists and Makers Studios, MAA, and other local artist groups, I am inspired and energized daily by those of you who are passionate about creating beautiful art and helping others do the same. I am enjoying the surprising new relationships developing and hope that I can give back a little joy along the way.
Growing and Staying Open to Opportunities
Since participating in the MAA and winning the Bertha Klum Award, I have sold a number of works, taken on several commissions, and started to develop a portfolio. Most recently, I was invited to join the Gaithersburg Artists Collective and showing my work at the beautiful Artists on Market pop up galley in the Kentlands.
I also displayed a piece at the 24th Annual Yellow Barn Member Show just last month. I look forward to more painting in my studio, gathering with new friends, and participating in some exciting exhibit opportunities in 2019.
Wishing my newfound MAA community a creative and prosperous 2019!
Life gets busy when you’re an artist, especially when you begin producing and showing more and more work. Given his roles as a Yellow Barn art instructor, an active member of a local art gallery and a successful artist participating in many shows throughout the area, James Vissari has decided to vacate the MAA presidency in order to focus on his art career.
In a recent survey about our Paint the Town Labor Day Show, our members noted that finding camaraderie with other artists was the best part of the show. James has been the key reason that happens. He was always the friendliest face at our shows, welcoming all members, familiar or not, with an exuberant warmth and huge smile. He made MAA feel like an intimate club of artist friends.
James exuded that same sincerity in networking in the community, building relationships that have helped MAA grow. We have nearly 200 members, we’ve added more shows, and we now participate in more community events.
James has also been committed to seeing new artists gain knowledge of the business of art through the mentorship of more established artists and through educational opportunities that MAA provides. It was through MAA, after all, that he won some of his first awards for his art. James’ commitment to learning from others is now the foundation of MAA’s vision.
We wish to thank James for all he put into being president and for caring so deeply about this organization. Certainly it’s not goodbye, as James will remain an MAA member and, we hope, still bring his huge, warm smile to our meetings and shows.
Here’s a collection of some of James’ drawings, paintings and sculptures:
I went to see the One House Project at BlackRock Center for the Arts last month. All the panels were the same size. Everybody’s story was as important every other one. Each participant artist was free to tell his or her story in anyway, using whatever materials the wished. The overriding idea was to teach visitors to the huge spread of reasons and ways people became immigrants to the United States.
The concept of the show was to explore the fact that, aside from Native Americans, we are all immigrants or descendants if immigrants. Some of the participants ancestors actually came on the Mayflower, some are descendants of Spanish people who had originally settled in Mexico, some are refugees escaping Europe before and after the Holocaust, pogroms and exclusion laws, some are refugees from wars and violence in Africa and South America, some are escaping war and crushing poverty in Asia. And some came involuntarily as slaves, convicts and indentured servants. Each panel told an individual story, as unique as the creators.
As I walked through I felt in some way intrusive in personal memories even as I was grateful for the sharing of them. I listened as they spoke about their panels. The descendant of a slave has been unable to trace her story further than that ancestor, she has had a huge part of her story stolen and that is very painful.
The curator, Jackie Hoysted, spoke of her own story as she is an immigrant. Prior to going into the show, some of us had been invited to create a panel to tell our own story. I chose my immigrant mother; I later took the panel to show my family who were very moved by all I’d included.
Art Watch is a DC, Maryland and Virginia based collective that seeks to join people together using visual art and communication. The group looks to use projects such as Our House to show how telling our stories can help overcome the fear of those who are not ‘like us’, whose skin, religion, culture, and customs can make us stronger if they are included in the larger story.
They open up the subject of inclusion and how discrimination-both legal and illegal- creates needless pain and loss. As someone who has experienced how devastating that can be, this exhibition hit home very powerfully.
I learned the stories of two of our own members, Jamie Downs and Jeanne Sullivan. Art Watch hopes that this project will be repeated. I personally plan to contact them about being involved and hope many of my fellow MAA members will do the same. Sound exciting?
The dream began in early 2016 when I auspiciously came upon photos of Chateau D’Orquevaux on Instagram. A new residency program was being developed for artists to “get away from it all, make art, meet other artists, and explore France” at an 18th-century chateau in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. The owner, Ziggy Attias, originally from New York, is methodically restoring the property with a long term vision that has no limits.
Two- or four-week residencies were offered. As the program took shape, each month I addictively followed groups of 8-10 artists arriving, doing art, and having fun in this historic chateau, set in 40 green acres on a hill in a tiny French village. Most of the artists were young, exploring abstract and otherwise unconventional approaches to art. I didn’t dare apply, for fear of being rejected, but by that time I could mentally walk through every room and studio in the chateau, sleep in a luxurious bedroom with a marble fireplace, pet the resident goats and taste the croissants!
I convinced an artist friend from Virginia to follow the chateau on Instagram, and at the very last hour of the last application date in December 2017 we applied individually for a one-month residency in September. In late January we were each accepted and then had to wait eight months until we could step up on those chateau stairs that I had climbed every day in my daydreams.
And what a joyful experience it was! First of all, to escape from our present reality was healthy and refreshing. The beauty of the surrounding hills, the sound of waterfalls, the sunrises and sunsets over the pond were solace for the soul. Secondly, the opportunity to interact with eight other artists of various ages and from different cultures, each exploring their own artistic journeys was both motivating and validating.
Most of all it was the personal artistic challenge that was most fulfilling. No critiques, no competition and no comparisons. And a chance to focus without daily distractions and perhaps to find new directions.
My friend and I were the only en plein air artists, so we got a huge well-lighted studio on the ground floor, complete with tapestries and chandeliers. It was as large as a ballroom. The other artists had individual studios on the non-renovated third floor, perfect for large canvases and possible dripping paint!
When not painting, we took long walks around the pond, fed the resident goats, and meandered through the little village of 84 residents. A few of us took day trips to larger towns, flea markets and centuries old castles and abbeys. Most of our food was provided, but we all had the experience of shopping in French for goodies and wine at the supermarket 10 miles away. During the evenings we got together for luscious dinners and conversations with our host, Ziggy. We even read Grimm’s fairy tales in the cemetery one night!
I am still black and blue from pinching myself! A dream come true! Don’t hesitate: Apply! The deadline for 2019 is very soon. Tell Ziggy that Paula sent you!
To learn more about the Artist-in-Residence program at Chateau D’Orquevaux, visit the official website . The deadline for 2019 residencies is December 17, 2018.