Piedmont Arts’ latest exhibits include a regal way of looking at children and the long-term impact of the feeling of nature.

The exhibits, which opened Friday evening with a reception, are “TransLight/TransPlace” by Halide Salam in the Hooker Garrett Gallery; “Fragile, Handle with Care” by Tawny Chatmom in the Pannill Gallery; and “Windows of the Soul” by Loretta Joy Crossman.

Chatmon’s portraits capture the beauty, innocence and hope of black childhood. She is devoted to creating portraits that are loosely inspired by painted works spanning from the 15th to 20th centuries, with the specific intent of bringing to the forefront faces that were often left out of this style of work.

Her portraits start as photographs, which she alters in diverse ways, usually in neutrals and patterns, but with the faces shining through, pure. The portraits are framed in gold vintage, antique and baroque frames she has collected.

“It is my hope that with each portrait I create, these images reflecting the beauty of black childhood and culture are etched into the memory of the viewer,” Chatmon wrote. “I would like the viewer to walk away with feelings of grace, pride, beauty, celebration and love.”

Art is a way to memorialize the past, she wrote: “A conversation or debate I have with someone about the disparities that continue to affect black people worldwide can be forgotten over time, but something tangible that we can see and touch and that also touches us has the power to live on.”

The eloquence and formality of the frames highlight the fragility and importance of the people, usually children, in the portraits they show, Piedmont Arts Director of Exhibitions Bernadette Moore said.

“Frames constructed during (or reminiscent of) an era in which framing subjects such as mine wasn’t a consideration,” Chatmon wrote by email. The concern she heard people voice about the delicate old frames “was my very wish for the subjects I was placing inside them.”

Chatmon’s photography has been featured in Vogue Bambini, Parenting Magazine and Babytalk Magazine. Her commercial clients include YMCA, Until There’s a Cure, National Education Association and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Salam received a Masters of Art in painting from New Mexico Highlands University and a Ph.D. in fine arts from Texas Tech University. She is a professor of art at Radford University.

She was born in India, Moore said, and delved into art in the United States.

Salam’s paintings are of nature — not anything you would see in one limited moment of time, the artist says, but rather your overall experience with it.

“Most of the time people think ‘it’s something that’s not a picture,’ because they’re so used to seeing pictures,” Salam said. It makes people “begin to question what we’re seeing.”

Rather than being a picture of something in nature, “it’s really about what all comprises nature, and everything in it,” she said.

Rather than capturing “a static moment in time,” her art brings to life “so many experiences, memories and feelings about when we are walking, touching, reading and feeling. Those are complex experiences, and they cannot be put into a picture, so how do we express that? It’s an expression of feeling as we interact with all the elements of nature.

“Actually, it’s a visual dialogue,” she continued. “It’s not about picture-making but about how you use the language to be able to express those emotions, to give the viewer a new experience, and to be able to open their minds, so to speak.”

Salam grinds and mixes many of her pigments, she said, adding that the physical aspect of creating her paints is as much a part of the art as the visual final product.

Crossman is a Lynwood Artist who lives locally. She helps Lynwood Artists president Jessie Ward hang paintings and usually enters the yearly Expressions exhibit, Moore said.

She creates mixed media paintings with different influences, many of them “deeply spiritual,” Moore said. Her “Windows of the Soul” exhibit features oil paintings.

During the exhibit opening talk, Crossman said she is a self-taught artist, and her works on exhibit had been created within the past three years.

The exhibits will be open through March 7.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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