CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The challenge to West Virginia artists to create portraits of historic state figures made Fayetteville artist Wendy Wassink turn to the subject of an oil painting she had been commissioned to paint.
Wassink and the subject, longtime state Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, were pleased with the results, and she thought it was worthy of the exhibit being planned by the state Division of Culture and History.
People at the state agency agreed, and so did Mary Gray of the Riffe Gallery for the Ohio Arts Council, who juried the show.
Wassink's painting of Chafin, done from a photo taken in the state Capitol, won second place and earned Wassink $500. It worked out well for Wassink that she had available the painting of Chafin, because it would have been nearly impossible to turn out another portrait under the deadline. She starts with a photo shoot, often hiring a photographer who may offer her several hundred photos from which to choose.
"It takes me a year to do a portrait like that," she said. Wassink works in a variety of media from oil to watercolor to acrylic, depending on a customer's wishes.
For Chafin's portrait, she used oils and glazes, slowly building up layers to give the painting depth and a glow; the finished result is almost photographic in quality.
A total of 29 pieces were submitted for the exhibit, which is the fourth and final in the series entitled: "Inspired: A West Virginia Series of Juried Exhibitions." Other exhibits in the series conceived by Culture and History Commissioner Randal Reid-Smith have focused on landscapes, historic landmarks and wildlife.
For this exhibit, subjects could be an actual person - there are two portraits of West Virginia-born writer Pearl Buck and two of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd - or they could portray a general historic character, such as a veteran or a coal miner.
The winning portrait, by Sandi Reinhart of Craigsville, is called "Old Timer Coal Miner," a sepia oil painting on leather.
Charles Morris, the director of museums and exhibits for the Division of Culture and History, said every piece submitted was accepted into the exhibit, which is on display in the lower level of the Culture Center Museum and will remain in place through Aug. 26.
The Division of Culture and History asked artists to consider as subjects West Virginians who made a significant contribution to the history of the state, inspired others or achieved national and international fame.
He noted that artists defined "historic" in many ways. There is a portrait of actress Jennifer Garner, one of basketball great Jerry West, one of the late actor Don Knotts and another of Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier resort. There are politicians and history makers - U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Mad Anne Bailey and Mother Jones.