Couple display photos, art at Christiansburg museum exhibit
An exhibit called “Gourleys in the Gallery” by Vanessa and Eugene Gourley of Christiansburg is on display through June at Montgomery Museum in Christiansburg at 300 Pepper St. A reception is scheduled for Thursday, May 9, from 5 to 7 p.m.
About 20 years ago, Vanessa and Eugene Gourley of Christiansburg both lost their spouses and needed to create new lives for themselves. He had two children; she had four. They missed adult relationships and decided to reach out through a local hospice group. That’s where they met and, as they say, the rest is history.
Married for 14 years, children all grown, these days they travel whenever they can and practice their chosen artistic endeavors; he with a camera and she with paintbrushes. The fruits of their labor are currently on display through June at the Montgomery Museum & Lewis Miller Regional Art Center, in Christiansburg.
Members of the Blacksburg Regional Art Association, the Gourleys have had numerous displays at the well-known museum. This display starts in the entrance hall with a collection of watercolor paintings of birds by Vanessa and continues to the second floor where large landscapes and flowers in watercolor and oil are on display.
Born in West Virginia, Vanessa grew up in North Carolina and Virginia and always knew she would be an artist. She went on to get a degree in fine arts from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts and master’s in art education from Radford University. She later taught art to middle and elementary school students in Pulaski County, something she really loved doing, and some art classes at Radford University.
“Kids are such fun to teach, they would be so excited to see the things I drew on the board,” recalled Vanessa. “But, as a teacher, you don’t have much time to be an artist yourself.”
Now retired, Vanessa especially enjoys painting in oil.
“Oil is my first love,” said Vanessa. “These days, I’m still practicing with watercolor and recently took some classes. My mother just couldn’t understand why I took classes as an adult when I taught art myself for so long!”
Like many artists, Vanessa doesn’t just concentrate on one medium. She has done sculpture, pottery, jewelry and stained glass.
“Guess I’m still searching for my style!” she said.
“One can never be satisfied with their level of skills or achievements. Every new person, place or scene can teach you something if you are perceptive and inquiring. Art is as life-long pursuit of building skills,” she said, still sounding every bit the art teacher.
Eugene, known as Gene, is a native of Detroit. He obtained his bachelor’s and master’s in biology from Eastern Michigan University and his doctorate in zoology from the University of Florida. For 30 years, he taught biology at Radford University.
Also retired, Gene now has time to indulge his love for photography.
“I was given a Kodak Duo-Flex camera when I was 8 years old, and I’ve been taking photographs ever since,” said Gene. “In high school, I was a member of the photography club where I got firsthand darkroom experience with developing, enlarging and printing.”
Things have obviously changed since then.
“I obtained a Minolta single lens reflex camera about 40 years ago and used it until film was no longer available. Since then, I have used a Nikon D70, which is perfectly functional; although newer cameras with more advanced technologies are now available,” he said.
Gene’s photos on display depict some of his favorite subjects found in Montgomery County. Landscapes of the mountains and forests are intermixed with fun finds on his travels around the county: a mailbox mounted on a rusted, wheeled cart; a set of wooden “scare crows” dressed in VT clothing.
“I hope the owners of those things don’t mind me exhibiting these photographs!” said Gene, with a laugh.
Some of his wife’s artistic interest rubbed off on Gene.
“As I travel, I am constantly looking for subject matter to photograph or paint in watercolor,” said Gene. “I am continually surprised by the effect of lighting changes that make a subject I have seen many times before exhibit an exciting new perception.”
The Gourleys actively participate in events at Montgomery Museum.
“Last year, on Heritage Day, we did silhouettes of attendees and facilitated the making of collage portraits with children,” said Vanessa. “I’m sure we’ll be in this event again this year on Aug. 24, but we haven’t decided exactly what we’ll do.”
– Submitted by Gerri Young
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