Where others might see sorrow, however, Ridgway artist Alice Billings sees freedom --and cause to rejoice.
As the owner of five horses, Billings has been painting vividly colored portraits of her equine family, and loving every brush stroke. Billings will host her second Ridgway Library exhibition beginning next week, with an opening reception on Saturday, June 13, from 4 to 7 p.m.
“My dad was an artist and sculptor, so I grew up in the art world in New York,” said Billings, who is now 63. “I have basically been an artist all of my life. I worked at my father’s feet in his studio beginning at about age four. While I was in high school, I studied with the Art Student’s League in New York City, and learned drawing from a live model. I have always been drawing and painting – my strong suit is drawing, because I believe in order to abstract you have to know how to draw.”
Although art has been a lifelong passion for Billings, who is also an accomplished musician, the sudden changes to her life situation – the death of her employer, the actor Dennis Weaver, and the ending of a longtime marriage – that occurred several years ago spurred a renewed emphasis on the creative process.
“I have always been an artist, but like anyone I have gone in and out of it,” she explained. “Life happens in the interim. Sometimes I have been in it much more than at other times. I have a great passion for horses – I have five horses and some llamas. I am calling this show, “Variations on a Theme of Shelley Belle and Other Colorful Horses Who Fill My World.”
Shelley Belle was the playful mare whose recent death left the artist both saddened and inspired.
“She was the horse who made me laugh,” Billings explained. “Horses are so grounded, with such passion. They give us unconditional love and compassion – the four-leggeds of the world have so much to teach the two-leggeds! I have been painting whimsical portraits of my horses because I have needed comic relief.”
Billings will show her newly created acrylic paintings, as well as some older works done in oils. She expresses gratitude to the local community who showed great support for her last library art exhibition three years ago.
“When my life changed, I went back to painting to help me heal,” she said. “When life becomes difficult, I always turn back to my art. I usually begin with a magic marker, because drawing is my medium. It is a very free process – when I am feeling free, I head to the canvas.”
Billings’s chosen subject matter also evokes the sense of personal liberty that is so essential to her.
“I love to paint horses, especially mustangs,” she said. “To me, freedom is what they represent – the freedom to be who you are.”
To learn more about Billings’s show, contact the Ridgway Public Library at 626-5252.
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