Exhibition at NIAD seeks to turn Richmond into an art destination

Love was in the air. That’s the feeling Heather Edgar hoped to convey to the visitors who stopped by at her art exhibition on Saturday at noon. Heart-shaped cookies, pink lemonade and cupcakes with pink frosting and heart-shaped sparkles were served at the reception—and it’s no coincidence that this artist’s show opened on Valentine’s Day. “I’m just such a huge romantic,” said Edgar, whose paintings often portray lovers.

“All Things Considered” marks Edgar’s first solo exhibition at NIAD Art Center, where she has been learning art skills for seven years. In a 4,000 sq. ft. studio, NIAD, which stands for the National Institute of Art & Disabilities, works with 60 artists every week, about 30 to 35 every day. Some of these artists have physical disabilities; others have developmental disabilities, while others have both. Each of the artists works with instructors who help them in 5 different areas: painting, printmaking, fiber, ceramics and making art from paper. “My medium of choice is acrylic, pencil drawing and sometimes ceramics,” said Edgar.

Landscapes, flowers and love seem to be a consistent theme in Edgar’s ceramic sculptures and paintings for “All Things Considered.” One of the biggest and most striking paintings of the exhibit is “The lava king and the happy couple.” One side of this canvas it’s very dark, portraying a castle surrounded by lava and an evil king with elf ears. On the other side, we can see a kingdom painted with bright colors and a happy couple hugging, surrounded by bunnies and flowers. Another highlight of the exhibition is “The time traveller and a love affair.” This acrylic painting portrays a man that has travelled through time and has fallen in love with a medieval woman. “She is crying because she knows they can’t be together,” said Edgar. “If they were, they would change the course of time and history, which is not a very good thing.”

“The only thing we can do it’s just hope for the best for them,” she added.

“Heather has definitely been influenced by pop painter John Wesley,” whose works often feature flat pictures in large-format acrylic paintings, said Katie Johnson, NIAD’s galley assistant. “There is a minimalism in her paintings and a flatness associated with illustration work.”

Edgar’s exhibition will be open until February 28. It’s one of the twelve solo shows NIAD has planned for this year to attract the Richmond community to the gallery. “We have a very diverse population and very diverse interest, but Richmond has never been known as the place to go for art,” said visitor Bill Phelps as he surveyed Edgar’s works. “So I think NIAD it’s a wonderful start, and maybe this could be the first of many venues where people will come to Richmond as a destination to see art.”

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