Portraits celebrate a life well lived

Victoria Moreland always knew her aunt, Barbara Pennington, was a talented artist. But it wasn’t until Pennington’s death in 2013 when Moreland realized just how enormous her aunt’s collection of self-created artwork was.

(Above) Victoria Moreland with some of her aunt’s artwork, including a self-portrait Barbara Pennington completed in 1968

(Above) Victoria Moreland with some of her aunt’s artwork, including a self-portrait Barbara Pennington completed in 1968

Moreland was always close with her aunt, who was a working artist for more than 50 years and never had any children of her own. As Pennington advanced in age, Moreland was made executor of her will and learned she would inherit the bulk of her aunt’s artwork.

“At first I was honored and pleased … but when we got to go into the studio (after she died) and actually start pulling works out, it was overwhelming to see exactly how much work there was,” Moreland said. “It’s like I brought her home with me.”

Pennington left behind hundreds of works of art including watercolors, oil paintings, oil pastels and pen and ink works. Moreland decided, after seeing the abundance and quality of her aunt’s artwork, the masterpieces weren’t created to sit in storage somewhere – they needed to be seen and enjoyed by others.

The Charlotte Fine Art Gallery will host a show exclusively featuring 40 to 50 works by Pennington next month. The gallery will host an opening reception on March 7, a Friday, from 6 to 9 p.m., and the show will remain on display at the gallery through March 29.

Charlotte Fine Art typically doesn’t host solo shows, Moreland said, but the organization’s leaders were impressed with the scope and diversity of her aunt’s artwork and dedicated March to exhibiting and selling the work.

“What makes this particular show different is it’s retrospective,” Moreland said. “You can see her growth and how she evolved.”

Moreland said her aunt changed her favorite style and medium over time and never put herself in a box. One of Pennington’s artistic strengths was her use of color – an area Moreland said has received a lot of positive feedback from people who’ve previewed the works in the show.

“They love her color – that was one of her strengths,” Moreland said. “Some (works) are very bright and vibrant, and she can be very soft when she wants to be.”

Most of the artwork in the show will be for sale, but there’s one piece Moreland holds dear to her heart and plans to never part with. Pennington created a piece in 1965 called “Selma.” The work is a mural depicting the civil rights marches that took place in Selma, Ala., in 1965, and the opening reception likely will be the last chance for the public to see the painting.

“It is such an impressive piece,” Moreland said. “The opening reception will pretty much be the last place to see it.”

Moreland describes her aunt as a “bit of a private person” with “a wicked sense of humor” and strong political views. Pennington attended the University of Alabama on a National Scholastic Art scholarship, where she studied art and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Pennington taught art and featured her own work in numerous art exhibits including a show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. She continued to create her own works at her studio in Gordo, Ala., until cancer claimed her life in March 2013. She was 81 at the time of her death.

The past year has been bittersweet for Moreland, but she’s excited to share her aunt’s works with others through next month’s show. She also plans to feature other pieces by Pennington in future shows and hopes to eventually fund a small scholarship in her aunt’s

“I miss her terribly, but I’m glad that I can do this for her,” Moreland said. “I like all of the paintings, so it’s been a lot of fun to pull (the show) together. It’s a little hard to get rid of them, but I know I have to.”


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