news smith house galleries to showcase augusta county artist in january
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Smith House Galleries to showcase Augusta County artist in January

arts council of the valleyArts Council of the Valley opens two new exhibitions at Smith House Galleries in Harrisonburg on Jan. 6, with a reception during First Fridays of the Valley, running from 5 to 7 p.m.

Deborah Coffey’s Deliverance and Beauty features collage, mixed media, painting and sculpture. Coffey also teams up with Doris Martin for an art installation, Forest Feast: A Walk in the Woods.

Coffey is a mixed-media artist who has exhibited and taught visual art and design nationally and internationally. A recipient of a Pollock-Krasner grant in support of artistic development, she leads private and group workshops that combine empathy practices with art as a way to wake up creativity and explore personal qualities and potential.

Coffey’s work spans painting, collage, drawing, installation and 3-D assemblage. She often looks for unusual combinations of materials and images to make meaning in her work.

“My artwork embodies themes of nature, spirituality, magical realism and sometimes politics,” said Coffey. “I work primarily in mixed media because it allows me – through playful discovery – to create wonder and explore new perspectives.”

Coffey collaborates with Doris Martin on a second Smith House Galleries exhibition, Forest Feast: A Walk in the Woods, an art installation designed to interpret and explore the beauty, wonder and appreciation of what a forest walk provides.

Simply representing trees and woodland landscapes in her artwork holds little interest for Coffey, who said she would rather “find ways to savor and express the experience of those woodland walks and the fleeting mystical presence familiar there.”

Martin, who lives at the foothills of Little Mountain in Augusta County, finds satisfaction in using repurposed materials from her surroundings to create paintings, collages, assemblages and sculptures.

“Mother Earth makes forest art that changes with each season, with each flutter of the wind,” Martin said. “My role is but to quiet myself and observe her brush and chisel as they work across the forest floor and into the canopy above.

“My hope is that the Forest Feast exhibit will remind us to honor the beauty and mystery of our life-giving forests.”

Both exhibitions run through Jan. 27, with in-person visits Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed Jan. 16), and Second Saturday (Jan. 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

The reception is sponsored by Alden and Louise Hostetter.

Smith House Galleries is located at 311 South Main Street in Harrisonburg.

The exhibitions will also be available online at valleyarts.org/current-exhibition.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.