RADFORD – As assistants carefully unwrap a massive landscape painting in Radford’s Tyler Gallery, the artist, Jane Duncan Stogner, reflects on a life of painting and exhibition.
Stogner stands amid dozens of her paintings waiting to be hung in the gallery for her show, Jane Duncan Stogner: A Fifty-Year Retrospective. An alumna of Radford’s art graduate program in 1973, she speaks with soft southern tone that resonates patient engagement.
“I find the mixing of the paint to be a very meditative process,” she says thoughtfully, offering up sheets of oil paints blended into unique colors as testimony to her practice.
“I usually get up early in the morning and squeeze out large quantities of paint to mix my colors,” she explains. “If I don’t get to use the paint, that means that life got in my way.”
Stogner works in oils exclusively and favors a palette knife for application. Consequently, her paintings have a thick, raised texture and yet, they are composed of tiny details compiled to create an image of the natural world and rural beauty.
Viewed at a distance, they blend impressionistic and photographic qualities. Up close, you can see the precision of each application of the knife.
“It takes so much more work than just using a brush because you’ve got to apply the exact color,” Stogner says.
“You have to be a colorist to know that those background trees are going to be duller than the others. You have to work to get just the right shade of green.”
But when the last stroke makes it to the canvas, the process is not over.
Many of her paintings are quite large. It can take up to a year for thick oils to completely dry and another three to six months to complete the varnishing process. Then there is framing and getting it out into a gallery.
Most of her work is inspired by her bucolic surroundings in the Blue Ridge, which she finds important to communicate visually, especially in a time where the natural world is facing so many threats.
However, you will also find examples of her abstracts and portraiture on display as well at the Tyler Gallery. This stems from many years spent as Ferrum College’s only instructor teaching drawing and painting and she felt obligated to give students a variety of experiences and avenues.
“I really believe that everyone has some talent,” Stogner says. “You just have to try out different things and find where your natural inclinations are.”
After a full career in education, Stogner retired in 2002 to become a full-time freelance painter. Her works have been featured in many galleries over the years and many of her works can be found in public buildings including places like Carillion hospital.
She says interior designers have placed many of her large works in nursing homes and senior facilities in the Richmond and D.C. areas, which makes her particularly happy.
Stogner also has her work featured in the Lin Dor Arts Gallery in Roanoke, but she says the Tyler exhibition is likely to be her final show.
Jane Duncan Stogner: A Fifty-Year Retrospective will run from Wednesday, Sept. 6, through Friday, Oct. 5, 2023 in the Tyler Gallery, located at 214 Tyler Avenue in Radford.
On opening evening, a free public reception will take place at the gallery, complete with refreshments. Everyone is invited to come meet the artist and enjoy her art.
Sean Kotz for Radford University