By Josette Keelor
It's not easy starting an art gallery.
Even in a place like downtown Winchester, which holds art walks once a month during its First Friday events, it takes a lot of funding and community interest -- but for an artist with a bad reputation, it's even more difficult.
Lauralyn Brickhouse opened 1 lb Gallery along the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall last month after having a hard time showing her own photography, which she said many gallery owners and art aficionados consider second rate to paintings.
"Photography is like the redheaded stepchild," Brickhouse said. Even worse, she said, she specializes in nude portraits.
She has shown her work around the country, but not as much in Virginia, which, outside of Lexington, has not been welcoming. But nude photography wasn't her only challenge. When shopping her portfolio around Washington, D.C., she learned initiative is also a no-no.
"Gallery owners want to be the ones to discover the artist," she said. They don't want walk-ins, she realized too late. "It discouraged me so much that I just sort of hunkered down."
She was living in Clarke County when she decided she needed a life change, so she sold her house and property, moved to a small apartment in Winchester, and used the money from the sale to open her second floor gallery at 29 N. Loudoun St.
On the second floor she can show the artwork she wants to without fear what passersby will think. "Plus, second floor space is cheaper," she said.
The downtown renovation this summer has made the transition from artist to gallery owner easier, and Brickhouse said, "The community really came out and supported me."
"I still make my own pictures," she said, later explaining, "I kind of wither when I don't." But having the gallery is more about bringing photography into Winchester.
"Photography now has a place in Winchester," she said -- welcome news for photographer Kerri Patton, this month's featured artist, who also worried her photos wouldn't have a place in the art world.
Brickhouse said Patton "is just a master at what she does." The gallery shows only photography, but Brickhouse said visitors will swear Patton's photos are paintings.
"It tricked me," Brickhouse said. "I think it's brilliant. She's really onto something."
Patton, a born and raised Winchester girl, who moved to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., in August, also shoots nudes, but what's different is that she paints her subjects first.
"I was trying to find art for our home and I couldn't find anything that's sensual yet also tasteful," Patton said.
The idea of painting live canvas stemmed from a painting of a nude woman's body, which Patton has included in a picture frame at her gallery exhibit.
"I really like her shape and her outline, but the color's just too dark, and so I said I wish I could paint the human body to look like that, to be my colors ... but in my version," she said.
"I actually hand paint the person, and that's where everyone gets confused, they're like 'Is it a painting or is it a photograph, what is it?'" she said. "So it's truly a photograph, but it's a photograph of a person's body that I painted."
Her first subject was a friend of hers who agreed to be painted. Since then, she's found women of all ages and sizes to pose for her.
"I paint the backdrop, and then I paint the girl's body and then I photograph it," she said. "So then they become art for their home."
Patton has shown her photography before, but this is her first show for her live canvas photos, and she's planning more. Patton was nervous about approaching the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley with her portfolio, but she said staff was encouraging, and she's planning an October exhibit there.
"She said there's nothing in here that you should be ashamed of, this is a painting that you would see in D.C. any day of the week," Patton said.
One of her favorite photographs, "Blue Goddess," made it into July's issue of "Vogue Italio," which Patton said gets more than 3,000 submissions a day.
"I've started playing with accessories too, so I put live flowers in some of my shots, and I put chain in one of them which is pretty cool, just trying to see what works," she said.
At last weekend's gallery opening, she was invited to give a presentation on art at James Madison University in Harrisonburg. She said her next ambition is to paint a celebrity.
She and Brickhouse agree that what's so unique about Patton's work is the ambiguity and, in some images, the abstractness. One photo of a woman's rear end has drawn discussion from viewers because of the mirror image it produced in reflective paper Patton used in the shot.
"I wanted to fool the eye," Patton said of her work in general. "You know, is it a photo or is it a painting, and I think I definitely nailed it."
"I've researched this online and I have not found anything like it."
Kerri Patton's "Live Canvas" will be on display at 1 lb. Gallery, 29 N. Loudoun St., 2nd floor, Winchester through August. For more information, call 686-7316 or visit onepoundgallery.com or kerrilanephotos.com.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org