New Appalachian Moments Blog Post
By Scott Ballard
(Author’s Note) I was encouraged to visit a unique exhibit of artwork at the Clubhouse at Jefferson Landing recently. While walking through the fine displays of portraiture work, I noticed some larger paintings to my left. The creativity and melding of the real and surreal was stunning! The artist, Whitney (Stuart) Landwehrmann, had so eloquently captured the spirit of Appalachia that I knew immediately that I needed to share her work with the Appalachian Memory Keepers community. (The work at right is “Immersion,” see the description below)
No artist is an island, and the journey for Landwehrmann is rich with foundational influences that literally shape and color her work. Generations upon generations of her family have lived in the mountains of Northwest North Carolina. Her maternal and paternal grandmothers (Nancy Barr Severt and Lena Ruth Stuart) nurtured her imagination and allowed her the freedom to be original and true to herself. Her early art lessons with renowned painter Stephen Shoemaker infused her art with a sense of storytelling. Her parents and later her husband encouraged and supported her pursuit of personal growth and subsequently her ability to express herself through her art. In her words, “I have evolved from the many people I have had the pleasure of being loved by and have loved in return, and I pray that when my art finds you that it provides your soul with exactly what it needs.”
State of Franklin: I was inspired by the story of the people of this area wanted to create the State of Franklin in the late 1700s. These people, our ancestors, desired independence and self-governance, so I wanted to depict a true mountaineer of that era. And I wanted to reveal that he was a part of his mountain home and that the mountain was also a part of him.
Immersion: This painting was the first piece that I’ve painted that I wanted to be a representation of myself and my art (although it is not a self-portrait). In what appears as a kind of double-exposure photo the river and the person are hardly separable. The painting draws you into it, invites you to be fully immersed in the beauty of this area, fully immersed in the folklore and culture because it is different than anything else.
Landwehrmann does commission work but even when people buy her work that she’s created for the sake of art and creation, she feels the intentions for the piece in question change, “their love for a particular piece of art turns into what that painting means to me as well,” she adds.
The 18th Amendment tells a story. Landwehrmann went to Appalachian State University and majored in Chemistry, but with a concentration in Fermentation Science. That part of her degree could include studying how wine, beer and yes, how moonshine is made. And that ties her back to the culture of Appalachia and the history of moonshine, “Making moonshine was a way people could support their families but of course the art of making moonshine came with perilous consequences.”
Hydration: You’ll find mountains and water as constant themes in Landwehrmann’s work. “I love including water in my paintings because it adds both reflection and depth. In my opinion, the person in the painting is asking a question. What is that question? The question might be what can each of us do to better coexist with our environment, no matter how small?
Landwehrmann finds inspiration anywhere and everywhere. “I’ll be outside or in a museum and I’ll see something and think to myself, ‘I’ve got to paint that!’ BUT I’m going to change this and add that. It’s difficult to put into words, it’s just a feeling about a new painting and I can’t get it out of my head until it’s on canvas!”
More of her work can be seen at: https://www.facebook.com/WLandwehrmann/
or @landwhisker on Instagram
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