Costello paintings bring valley color to SU

After a successful retrospective show at the Burwell-Morgan Mill last fall, the works of Strasburg artist Jim Costello will be on display for a second time starting this weekend at Shenandoah University.

Around 10 Costello paintings will be unveiled at an artist’s reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the university’s Health and Life Sciences Building. His works will be on display in the building’s rotunda from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until April 10 and the works will be available for purchase.

Costello earned two degrees at Notre Dame in the ’60s and taught art at two colleges. He moved to the Shenandoah Valley with his family in 1970 and painted odes to the surrounding landscape, dedicated to his art but not devoted to showing it.

Before the show at the Mill, much of his work was stowed away in outbuildings until a group of friends he calls the “art committee” began excavating pieces out.

Costello said the works for the Shenandoah University show are an entirely different set from the ones that were on display at the Mill, and there are still many paintings that haven’t been on display yet.

He said he hasn’t seen 50 to 60 of those paintings in around 25 years – since a show in Washington, D.C., during the 1980s. He said he’s looking forward to dusting them off and revisiting them after so long.

“We just took all the paintings out and looked at them out in the garden. The half we didn’t like kind of got shoved away,” he said. “I suspect that maybe there’s some nice pictures in there that would look a little different now than they did 25 years ago.”

While the SU display won’t showcase as many works as the retrospective exhibit did, Costello said he thinks the location makes it a bit more accessible.

“I think a lot of people will be able to see it maybe a little easier than they did at the Mill,” he said. “It’s right there at the university – you don’t have to make a special trip or anything.”

Maggie Maloney is one of Costello’s friends who have helped coordinate and curate his art. She said the “art committee” is continuing to clean and restore his work, preparing it for display.

“His reception at the Mill was really mind blowing and he sold about 10 paintings, which was really remarkable,” she said. “We’re taking it even further – this is an ongoing process now.”

Adrienne Bloss, the university’s vice president for academic affairs, served as a point of contact after a friend of the university recommended displaying Costello’s art.

Bloss said structures were constructed in the rotunda to accommodate the exhibit. Since the building is regularly used for studying and meetings, she said it was important that the works could complement use of the rotunda as an academic space.

“This isn’t something that we do regularly, although we do now have some space that would provide an opportunity for future shows,” she said.

Costello said he’s grateful for the efforts that have gone into setting up these exhibits – a task he could never have handled as a full-time caretaker.

“Everyone else is doing all the hard work, all I had to do was paint the pictures,” he said laughingly.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com