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Mattawoman Creek Art Center is not exactly on the beaten path. You have to go a little out of your way to find it. However, if you like nature, a beautiful setting, then the gallery located at Smallwood State Park in Marbury is absolutely worth the drive.
Another good reason to go is the vibrant artwork of J. Sutton Wooddy-Rooney, currently on exhibit through May 30.
Wooddy-Rooney, who grew up in West Virginia, successfully painted her first canvas at the young age of nine. She recalls encouragement from her parents, neither of whom were an artist.
“My aunt was the painter,” she said.
Wooddy-Rooney’s mother was a teacher who “could have been an artist” but became a writer instead.
The artist credits her wide sweeping canvases to a high school English teacher in Charlestown, W.Va. who asked her to design and paint sets for a musical production.
“They were very large sets,” Wooddy-Rooney said.”That started me to doing large paintings.”
The work chosen for MCAC’s current exhibit is both past and present.
“It spans quite a few years,” she admitted.
Unlike her first “past and present” show at MCAC in 2008, which included “sunrises and skies,” this show is sunflowers, clouds, lily pads and gardens. Many of the canvases are large, some smaller. The works fairly jump out at you.
The lily pads represent part of a creek she has visited before. A painting right beside it shows the same body of water with many dead trees protruding from the water. The newer, larger work shows the creek as it appears today.
“On the large canvases, I mainly paint with my knife,” she noted. “I use the brushes to add detail, but a good portion of it is done with just the knife.”
Wooddy-Rooney’s command of color is impressive. Mellifluous flowers are richly textured, the greens and light blues surrounding them are subtle, achieving a sense of distance and a scene any viewer will appreciate.
The sunflowers encompass an entire room and range from a large closeup of summer blossoms to smaller, more discreet works.
Older, elegant scuptures of two chocolate labrador retreivers Wooddy-Rooney once owned are also included in the exhibit. The larger is a bronze which greets you before you walk into the gallery.
“I had two labs and they ran off,” she said. “I found one but the other one didn’t come back. I put up posters all over Port Tobacco and a woman contacted me and told me, ‘I think I found your dog. She’s up here by the side of the road. I couldn’t tell if she’d been hit or not.’ The sculpture out front is just how she looked when I found her. She was all right.”
Her experience with her labs cured her of the pedigree. She now owns two poodles.
“They never want to leave the house,” she said with a laugh.
Wooddy-Rooney is hoping to do more sculpture in the near future and to paint more clouds.
“I like clouds,” she said. “God’s clouds.”
At her Port Tobacco home, Wooddy-Rooney has a “glass room” which she said provides a good visual of the sky. A walk out on the deck and she can see the clouds and storms rolling over the river.
“When I did my clouds I did not have a horizon line,” she said, “just clouds. I left nothing to stand on.”
Wooddy-Rooney was honored by the Community Foundation of Charles County May 11 at the sixth annual Waterfowl Show in La Plata for her waterfowl paintings.
“Many of them are not recent,” she said. “When I first moved here I was fascinated by the water birds that came in the fall. I went through a period of painting geese.”
Wooddy-Rooney taught art in Charles County Public Schools for 10 years. When asked if any of her students became artists, she admitted that one became an art teacher.
“I think I left an imprint on them,” she said. “Some of them are my clients.”
Meaning that these days, they’re the among the customers buying her paintings.
J. Sutton Wooddy-Rooney: Then and Now
Where: Mattawoman Creek Art Center, 2750 Sweden Point Road, Marbury
When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Fri., Sat. and Sun
Cost: Free (gallery is located at Smallwood State Park, park fee is waived for visitors to MCAC)
Contact: Call 301-743-5159 or go to www.mattawomanart.org/