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Arts & Extras: Visualizing the unseen

Arts & Extras: Visualizing the unseen


The best-known quote from Max Ehrmann’s 1927 spiritual poem “Desiderata” — “the universe is unfolding as it should” — Hollins University art professor Jennifer Anderson Printz takes to heart.

“I believe in the benevolence of the universe,” she said.

Her new exhibition at the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins gives that principle visual expression. “An Almost Unnoticed Quietus” assembles drawings and prints made during a recent sabbatical that combine photographs of cloud formations with abstract shapes.

Printz moved to Roanoke from Los Angeles in 2010, and after years of the city’s smog, the clear views of clouds in Southwest Virginia inspired her to take pictures. Reflections on the many ways that unseen rules control and guide the visible world led her to begin a series of drawings in 2014 in which she superimposed hand-drawn geometric patterns on the images of the sky.

When it comes to the laws of science and the mysteries of spirit, “there is, I think, a structure and an organization that we can’t always perceive,” Printz said. This is true in a literal sense, she noted, as human eyes can only see a very small percentage of the spectrum of light.

The abstract patterns she draws can represent those unseen structures. In a process she describes as meditative, she takes prints she makes on ledger paper of the cloud photographs and draws on them using a simple mechanical pencil. Even for the smaller works, the buildup of graphite layers on the paper can take 10 to 12 hours.

A Tennessee native, Printz, 41, says a tradition of handmade crafts in her extended family informed her own drive to become an artist.

Meditative repetition has been a factor in a number of Printz’s works. An outdoor mural done in 2014 for the Taubman Museum of Art, “Resolute Understanding of Fragile Things,” incorporated repeating stencil patterns of objects that referenced the Southwest Virginia landscape.

Many artists use their process as a way to achieve a meditative state, Printz said, citing a 2015 story in The Washington Post that explores the healing power of art in detail.

“Real art is always self-reflecting,” she said. “We’re showing who we are in one way or the other.” For artists who want to use their work to put something positive into the world, “the work turns meditative.”

Her show opens Thursday and will stay on display through Dec. 20. Printz will give a talk 6 p.m. Wednesday at the museum.

The forthcoming week is also the final week to see “Ethan and Vita Murrow: Drawings from ‘The Whale,’” an exhibition of cinematically detailed graphite illustrations from an acclaimed children’s picture book. Based in Boston, the Murrows, who are husband and wife, collaborated on “The Whale,” a tale of two pre-teen adventurers who go on a quest to find a legendary spotted whale. Published in the U.S. in 2016, the book proceeds like a storyboard for a movie. The Wilson Museum show closes Oct. 8.

Exports to Hollywood

“Stronger,” the movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, opened at the Grandin Theatre last week with praise from critics and a Southwest Virginia connection.

Lynchburg native and Virginia Tech graduate Peter McGuigan is one of the movie’s executive producers. The co-founder of Foundry Literary + Media agency in New York, McGuigan represented Bauman and his co-author Bret Witter for the book of the same name, published by Hachette Book Group in 2014. Fun fact: McGuigan also represents Roanoke author Beth Macy.

Fans of Roanoke County native Jen Lilley who miss the days when she was a regular on the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives” have a chance to catch her on the small screen Saturday. She stars in “Harvest Love,” a movie premiering at 9 p.m. on the Hallmark Channel.

Lilley plays a widowed surgeon and single mom who returns to the small town where she grew up and has an awkward meet-cute with the hunk (Ryan Paevey of ABC’s “General Hospital”) who’s managing her family farm. Pear picking, pumpkin carving and romance soon follow.

Farr appearance cancelled

An Oct. 11 appearance by “M*A*S*H” star Jamie Farr, who played the cross-dressing Max Klinger for 11 seasons of the classic CBS show, has been cancelled.

Farr was scheduled to appear at the Historic Masonic Theatre in Clifton Forge as part of the cast of a touring stage adaptation of Mitch Albom’s memoir “Tuesdays with Morrie.” According to the Alleghany Highlands Art Council, the entire tour was cancelled because Farr quit after two Canadian members of the production were denied visas by the U.S. Office of Homeland Security. Tour producer William Rogers wrote in an email that Farr’s exit wasn’t a political statement.

The art council has offered refunds to those who purchased tickets to the play and is seeking a replacement event.

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Mike Allen is the editorial page editor for The Roanoke Times. His past beats as a Roanoke Times reporter included Botetourt County, Franklin County, courts and legal issues, and arts and culture.

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