The Student, The Mage, and The Exhibitor: Q&A with Begoña Lathbury

The Mage by Begona Lathbury

The Mage by Begona Lathbury

Here at The Art League we love seeing students hone their art skills and become emerging artists in their own right. This month in the April Mixed Media show you might see a colorful portrait that incorporates a distinctive metal sort of “hairdo.”

The piece,  The Mage, is the first piece featured in The Art League Gallery by Bev Ryan student, Begoña Lathbury, who won an honorable mention in the April Mixed Media show for her mixed media piece. Lathbury won her membership in the Student/Faculty show, and it was her first time entering! We chatted with Lathbury about her progression from student to exhibitor and about her eye-catching piece:

In Procession Begona Lathbury

In Procession Begona Lathbury

You were a student of Bev Ryan, what originally led you to The Art League School?

Back in the 1980s and early 90s, I took sculpture classes, primarily in stone carving, at the Corcoran School of Art. After the birth of our second child, I realized that stone carving would have to stop (too much silica dust). I began to make studio jewelry and assemblage art from wood, metal, and computer components, but my painting skills were rudimentary. I searched for a painting class closer to home in Alexandria. In Bev Ryan at the Art League, I found a teacher to encourage me to paint more expressively and freely.

A Screen Darkly Begona Lathbury

A Screen Darkly Begona Lathbury

What class did you take with Bev, and have you taken any other classes at The Art League? Are you planning on taking any more classes?

I am now a longtime student in Bev’s Thursday abstract painting class, Beyond the Tangible. My husband, Roger, takes the class with me. We love Bev! Attending her class has become an important part of my art practice and, as an added bonus, it has been the source of several wonderful friendships.

Bev has the confidence to encourage her students to experiment and to deviate from her own assignments. She nurtures us as individual artists. For the past two years in her class, I have been working primarily on equine paintings, along with occasional animal-human figures. I’m definitely one of the more representational painters in class, but Bev has never made me feel uncomfortable for refusing to paint “beyond the tangible” abstractions.

Over the years, I have taken several other courses at the Art League (jewelry making, clay figure and portrait, bronze casting, drawing, oil painting, and Bev’s Narrative painting class), but I always return to “Beyond the Tangible.” I imagine I’ll be there until the day Bev retires, which I hope is many, many years from now.

The Mage in April's Mixed Media Show

The Mage in April’s Mixed Media Show

In your piece, The Mage what was your inspiration? What materials did you use to accomplish the mixed media composition of the piece?

“The Mage” is a portrait of an enchanter, a wizard in modern garb. It’s one of those pieces that seemed to create itself magically after a long incubation period. It started in my studio, three years ago, with some very fluid acrylic paint that I pushed here and there with the intent of creating a portrait. I mixed the acrylic with a medium that, once dry, created deep fissures in the paint surface. I loved the colors and the texture but was unsure where to go next. The painting sat on a shelf in my studio for three years. Meanwhile, about two years ago, during a walk through town, I found a small piece of filigreed and rusted steel on the road. I placed it on the kitchen window sill of our home, where it stayed. Just recently I realized that the painting and the metal piece would fit together. For me, that is magic!

Loverboy Begona Lathbury

Loverboy Begona Lathbury

What was the piece you submitted to the Student/Faculty show?

My piece for the Student/Faculty show was a bull-human created from painted cardboard and topped with horns made from a lovely crescent of rusted metal that I found on the street outside the Madison Street Annex. Although in my mind this piece harkens back to my assemblage sculpture days, I created it during a recent session in Bev’s class. Later that same day, I submitted it to the show. It was Bev who encouraged me to submit it (I had been planning to submit one of my more sedate horse paintings). This painted bull is quite clearly, and rather prominently, a male fertility god. I was delighted when it received an award.

Sun and Air Begona Lathbury

Sun and Air Begona Lathbury

Bev has said, “Begoña Lathbury’s work is always innovative and up to date. Her skill, intuitive decision making and wit have brought us this portrait that fires on all cylinders. It is both haunting and humorous. Begoña has a unique voice. I can’t wait to see what she does next” about your piece. What would you say that you’re unique voice is…or how would you describe it at this point in your work?

It’s extraordinarily kind of Bev to say such things about my work. My unique voice? I would say that my best works are pagan and joyfully spiritual. I aim to make work that looks fresh, although I spend a lot of time reading and absorbing ancient world mythologies. My artworks reference mythological themes while also reflecting our times.  

April’s Mixed Media exhibit was juried by Lavar Munroe  and features Begona’s piece. The Space of Her Own Special Photography Exhibit and Megan Patridge’s “Bugs. Or Kafka on Prozac” exhibit is also on view through May 5. 

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