MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Three Winchester artists are participating in the “Transformations” exhibit at Berkeley Art Works, which features pieces from varied genres and from artists with divergent backgrounds.
“Artists want to share stuff and I knew that I needed to do this with other women. That’s been a theme all my life — groups of women coming together to support one another,” said Martha Hanley from Gerrardstown, W.Va.
The works will be on display through July 14 at Berkeley Art Works — a project of The Berkeley Arts Council — at 116 N. Queen St. in Martinsburg. Hanley, a member of the Arts Council, has coordinated the exhibition, which includes her own work as well as art from Sally Myers, Marty Matheson and Kristin Camitta Zimet, all of Winchester.
“We have supported one another in creating what, for me, is largely a new body of work,” Zimet said.
Hanley noted how the artists have absorbed deep life changes that have sometimes obstructed or informed their work. The title “Transformations” hints at that theme.
“With every loss or life threat, there is the opportunity for reinvention, for a new way of taking hold of life,” Hanley said. “For all of us, I think art has been a means of so doing.”
Hanley said that at least in some cases, the process of aging has affected the art.
“What does it mean to be over 65 in our society, especially as a woman?” she asked.
Hanley’s work focuses on what she calls assemblages, or the creation of images with rice paper, keys, pearls, stones and various other objects. She moved to this form of creation after years of doing watercolor painting.
Hanley explained some of her own path back into art, as well as the genesis of the exhibition.
“We were each going through challenges,” she said of the artists. “I had lost my partner in 2016, who was also an artist. During that course of his illness and death, I pretty much put down my art. It was a year ago in February that I made the commitment that I was going to do something.”
As for Matheson, who uses pen and ink in her work, she created a series of seven life-sized black-and-white images for this exhibition.
“I’m primarily an abstract artist, so I often begin with what would seem like an arbitrary element and then work with that element until I am intrigued by what happens,” she said, and then she pointed out a piece called “Tumbling 43.”
“It started with my fingerprints,” she said, noted that she’d placed them arbitrarily with ink on the page.
“A lot of my art — most people would not say it’s about anything in particular,” she said. “But there are things of me that are put in there, and whether people see them or not is irrelevant.”
Matheson said she began taking art classes in her 40s, and then stopped much of her artistic work to care for her mother in the early 2000s. She said her mother died in 2006.
Myers said she saw the art exhibition as an opportunity to get to know the other artists and also to add a dimension — literally — to the works on display. As a sculptor, Myers is contributing three-dimensional art.
Myers noted a massive hurdle she faced not long ago. “I did have a brain tumor a year ago — quite a large brain tumor,” she said.
She underwent a craniotomy in November 2017 at Winchester Medical Center.
“When I came out of the surgery, I thought maybe I wasn’t an artist anymore because my brain was quite different,” she said.
Zimet described her own transformation.
“I’ve been an artist all my life, but my art has predominantly been words,” she said. “I’ve been a poet since I was 4 years old.”
Zimet said she’s worked as a “serious professional poet as well as editor.” The visual world, though, has now unveiled itself to her.
“For me, an astonishing transformation has been that my metaphors and my creativity have suddenly opened up into the visual, in partnership with the verbal,” said Zimet, whose work at the exhibit focuses on digital photography.
She recalled struggles with her own health, as well.
“I am a two-time cancer survivor myself, and my husband is a cancer survivor and has multiple health issues,” she said. “So I have been a caregiver for a long time, and I am looking to live as full as rich of a life as fast as I can. I don’t want to leave anything out, and this visual art is new territory to claim for me.”
The artists have made the treks into art through different pathways. Hanley and Matheson both began their work in their 40s, they said, and Zimet turned to visual art after a lifetime of writing and editing.
Myers has been working as an artist and teaching art for much of her life. Some years ago, she retired from teaching art at Ball State University in Indiana and moved to Winchester.
A sculptor, Myers works with steel and clay. She was putting touches on a piece called “Clear Water” on Monday morning. The piece includes clay fish mounted on steel rods and moving through imaginary water, adjacent to birds perched on branches.
Myers said she works to draw attention to the natural world — and to urge people to take care of it.
“If I can make you love a wetland by coming into a gallery, then maybe I have a better chance,” she said.
Meet the artists at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. June 23 at Berkeley Art Works.