Visual artist varies from traditional to fanciful


The music plays softly in her kitchen, where visual artist Virginia Robertson's easel is stationed. Another CD can be heard faintly in the background, coming from behind her house on Lexington Avenue. A friendly black Labrador, Romulus, sniffs a new arrival, then affectionately bumps up against the visitor.

Robertson says she "couldn't paint a stroke without music." The artist likes creating both serious and whimsical art out of oils and acrylics, as well as mixed media collages. Of her work, she says, "I feel that my work has a narrative quality, often displaying eccentric characters in unexpected and often comic situations, with poetry and music being the central theme."

She enjoys portraiture of loved ones as well as fictional characters. In the winter, she painted a series of "interesting women."

Robertson creates "Paperdolls," which developed from her "years as a primary schoolteacher, and my love of children's colorful, frank, simplistic art."


She also finds "considerable pleasure in revisiting my 11-year-old, whom I keep tucked inside my kinky inner self." From that inner child she creates "Whimseys": Colorful oils and acrylics with unusual characters having adventures right on the canvases. And there's a bonus that comes with each one.

"I write poems to go with these paintings," Robertson says of the Whimseys, on which she's been working about a year or so.

They have been popular sellers. A year ago, she says, she had nine when she participated in a Millennium Park event. At the end, she had three.

She shows her Whimsey "Is Nothing Sacred?" and reads the poem that goes along with it.

"The poems and the frames are more fun than the inside," she says.

Often, the frames take hours of work because she gets more and more detailed with her "stylized goobering," she says.

"That's how I gave birth to these suckers."

She likes to put towers in her Whimseys, and when they're finished, she likes to consider the different interpretations for the pieces.

"Ella's World" is another Whimsy, created in her studio for her brother's granddaughter, "a red-headed beauty in Phoenix." It contains a Kentucky Derby horse, "blue birds of happiness," Uncle Bill and Aunt Ginger (as Robertson's family calls her), Plucky Ducky with a cranberry necklace, and Ella, with her naturally curly, red hair.

"I would like to do these for children individually," Robertson notes. "Ella is only 2, and I specifically put little characters in it (that she would like.) I want her to touch and point to pieces. ... I want her fingers all over it."

She writes on napkins, brochures and post-its her ideas for Whimseys.

"My Whimseys are favorites, with painted frames that are an extension of the artwork they encompass. The Whimseys boast the inner narrative with an original poem by the artist."

Her serious work is just as interesting

Robertson doesn't do poems for her paintings of women, but her serious work is just as interesting. She has a painting of an Oriental woman that her husband, Bill, loves.

"It's one of my finer pieces," Robertson notes. "I can get serious. I don't like to, really - not a whole lot."

The Paperdolls are mixed-media pieces. The artist says the inspiration for them came from kids at the school where she worked.

"I'm from the paper doll generation," Robertson, 67, notes. "I did them for my cousins because I drew. We had a separate room on each step going up the stairs. They were my 'paper doll' cousins."

Robertson says she always has been an artist. Her first exhibition was in fifth grade, in Nebraska, and for it she created a polyphemus moth.

"It had lots of color," the artist, a graduate of Centre College, remembers. "The nun, Sister Amata, was going bonkers over it."

She also creates mixed-media collages, in which she marries contemporary and traditional elements.

"Art is so eclectic," Robertson notes. "I feel like a kid in a candy store."

After years of being a schoolteacher, Robertson is enjoying spending more time with her artwork since she semi-retired in 1997. Most of her pieces cost upwards of $200 - a bargain, considering the hours and details she puts into her artwork.

Robertson is a member of the Wilderness Trace Art League and Gathering Artists. She credits the Arts Commission of Danville/Boyle County with pointing a bright light at the visual artists in the community.

"Artists have been embraced by so many activities - the gala (during the brass band festival), gallery hops that are being planned, Whimsy in Weisiger," Robertson notes. "It's been exhausting for us but it's been exciting and been wonderful and so supportive. It's been like no other summer, really. They've been wonderful.

"The gala at the antique show was so much fun. I had good sales. And the Whimsy in the park is fun. I'm really looking forward to the gallery hops uptown."

Currently, she is delighted about her work being in her first national, juried art exhibition, which opens today at Centenary Christian Life Center on Perryville Road. Two of the three Whimseys she submitted were chosen for the exhibition, titled "Let There Be Light": "See A Star, Dream A Star" and "Music Is the Food of Love." There were 90 applicants for the exhibition, and 36 were chosen, she adds.

"I'm really excited about that."

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