A handful of Richmond artists will be creating murals inspired by the history of Virginia – and you’ll be able to see the mural-making process live and on-site.
“Fresh Paint: Murals Inspired by the Story of Virginia” intertwines Richmond history with street art, as muralists take inspiration from the Virginia Museum of History & Culture’s 9 million item collection. With artifacts ranging from photographs to World War I uniforms to stills for making alcohol, every piece is inspired by an item of their choice.
“This is an expression of [the] history happening outside of our museum,” said Andrew Talkov, Vice President for Exhibitions and Publications. “And so we wanted to bring that into our museum. [These] objects have a deeper, broader story to tell.”
For muralist Amelia Langford, “Fresh Paint” is right up her alley. As an avid storyteller through intricate, black-and-white illustrations, graphic designs, and murals, Langford is ready to infuse her unique artistry with the historical account of her artifact.
“I am a vessel of storytelling. There’s always a story that drives my work…every little piece that’s in there, is there for a reason,” Langford said. “And now, [I want to] tell the story of Virginia.”
The 28-year-old Richmond native draws much of her inspiration from ecosystems and 18th and 19th-century naturalists. Although she isn’t ready to reveal her historical object of inspiration yet, Langford said she is excited to see street art meld deeper with Richmond art history.
“I’ve been painting murals for 15 years,” Langford said. “Street art was, at one point, something that was frowned upon. But in today’s culture, it’s something very accepting and it brightens a community [like] Richmond. We have over 100 murals from artists all over the world and locally [becoming] a part of our community and our modern-day culture.”
“Fresh Paint” will feature 10 artists: Mickael Broth, Nico Cathcart, Wing Chow, Hamilton Glass, Chris Hulburt, Amelia Langford, Austin Miles, Toobz Muir, Noah Scalin, and Ed Trask. With distinct artistic styles, each muralist’s artifact will be displayed next to the finished mural for viewers to see where the inspiration came from. Some of the specific artifacts to be highlighted include a 1921 photograph of social reformer Janie Porter Barrett, an automobile made early in Virginia, a sword from a Civil War battlefield near Petersburg, and a hat worn at the 2017 Women’s March.
Abstract artist Wing Chow plans to connect her personal style with a historical photograph of the Natural Bridge, a geological formation in Rockbridge County that forms an arch. Chow’s art is characterized by amorphous, flowing forms and a cooler-toned palette – blues, greens, purples – and sometimes, the occasional pop of orange or pink. Talkov said the curators were particularly intrigued to see how her artistic style would marry with that of historical Virginia.
“[Chow] doesn’t have a lot of historical pieces in her portfolio,” Talkov said. “But we really thought seeing her art style applied to historical objects and stories would be interesting.”
Wing Chow was drawn to the photo by the scale of the story it tells. She said, “More so than just the history of Virginia, [the photograph] relates to the history of the world as a whole.” She added, “You see these giant, geological formations that took millions of years to form and there’s this sublime quality about it. It’s incredible to realize that [these structures were] formed so many years before we could even fathom…and you come to terms with the fact that our lifespans are so short.”
As a firm believer in creating through consciousness and infusing spirituality into her work, Chow plans to symbolically depict the Natural Bridge as a portal into the metaphysical. Or as she puts it, “portals into other ways of thinking.”
Alongside “Fresh Paint,” VMHC will launch the exhibit’s companion publication, called “The Story of Virginia: Highlights from the Virginia Museum of History and Culture,” compiling a survey of Virginia history into photographs.
The collaborative exhibition offers Richmonders the chance to watch these stories of Virginia history come to life as muralists paint their creations. As the artists create, their workspace will be open for people to observe and meet the artists. The featured artists will be working on their pieces between Sept. 10 and Oct. 12. A schedule can be found at virginiahistory.org.
“Fresh Paint” will officially open on Oct. 27 and will be on display through April 14, 2019.