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Painterly Visions

LIFE IN THE ARTS - Artist, Anne Marchand delivers news from the Washington, DC Arts Scene

Mary Margaret Pipkin

Barn Show


the Shenandoah Valley

On a gorgeous fall day in October, 150 guests attended a reception for Mary Margaret Pipkin's latest exhibition and had a wonderful preview of her gorgeous watercolor paintings. Mary Margaret began to do these paintings about four or five years ago, after her flower show at the U.S. Botanical Garden in Washington, DC. The tree paintings were a natural progression from her flowering trees in full blossom, a tulip magnolia and a star magnolia, which tied directly to the flower paintings.

Her dream to spend more time in nature began in the mid 80's when she and her husband bought a cabin on the side of Massanutten Mountain in the Shenandoah Valley. Mary Margaret Pipkin has been a part of the metropolitan art scene for over three decades. In the early 80's, she had a studio with a group of artists on O Street NW in Washington, DC including Allison Abbott, Steven Foster, Lori Ehrlich Katz, Anne Marchand, Jean Morgan George, Betsy Packard, Teri Potter Phillips, Nancy Samson Reynolds and Cynthia Rubin. A few years later, she moved to nearby Virginia. Over the past 24 years, Pipkin and her family have spent time exploring, hiking, fishing, and canoeing in the Shenandoah Valley surrounded by nature. Mary Margaret fell in love with the area, particularly during the fall, and made it the focus of her art work over the last five years.

"Only in the winter, after the leaves had fallen, could I really see the mountain upon which we stood. It made the transition so mysterious, to suddenly be able to see how we were part of something so large. I also love the light in winter. Even though the winters are much darker than in Texas, where I grew up, the quality of light on the trees is quite beautiful, and even more so with the mountain behind. I knew this was something I wanted to explore further."

"After the winter’s rest, the mountain slowly begins to awaken. Ever so cautiously, the first buds begin to push their way out, and life just seems to creep up the mountainside, bit by bit. In my largest work to date, I chronicle this moment of springtime awakening on the mountain in the diptych “Early Spring in the Blue Ridge”. With the hint of what is to come, I used the evergreens to contrast with the bare branched trees and the newly budded understory of sassafras, reminding us of the ever-present mountain behind with the still cold, blue winter shadows spread across its face."

A few years after beginning work on these pieces, Mary Margaret and her husband bought a small farm about three miles south on the mountain. "Here the rolling fields move rhythmically up to the base of Massanutten Mountain, providing a new vantage point from which I hope to explore further in my work over the next few years. The move seemed to provide a further imperative to capture my experience of the previous twenty years as I began to take in the beauty of the mountain from below."

Pipkin wanted to show her new body of work in a setting which would be as perfect for them as the Botanical Garden had been for the flower pieces. She now had the perfect space to do that, a classic bank barn built in 1919. Lighting was installed and her husband devised an ingenious rail system all the way around the barn to hang the work. The barn environment provided a perfect connection between the warm wood of the walls and the paintings. The views outside created a wonderful symbiosis with the paintings. It took the artist two full days to install the work.

150 friends and family came from the DC area, Richmond, Charlottesville, Texas, Indiana, and North Carolina, including many of her new neighbors from the Shenandoah Valley. Thrashen Hollar, a local Bluegrass band, played all afternoon as people enjoyed the art, barn, bar-b-que and great outdoors. The cathedral windows, installed by the previous owner, created a jewel box setting for the paintings and enhanced acoustics for the band.

"I was happy to bring a new kind of art to my part of the Shenandoah Valley. For many it was the first time to see such monumental watercolors. I was equally happy to bring my urban friends to the country to take in the beauty that had inspired the paintings. I look forward to another show there in the future."

You can contact the artist at and see more of her work at

Posted by Anne Marchand at 12/09/2009 No comments: Links to this post

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Labels: Massanutten Mountain, MM Pipkin, Shenandoah Valley, watercolor painting

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