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Reynolds Gallery organizes an exhibition celebrating artist Nell Blaine's last 30 years. 

A Colorful Homecoming

Nell Blaine: Paintings and Watercolors 1970-1996
April 9-May 8
Reynolds Gallery
1514 W. Main St.

Artist Nell Blaine once said that the only things worth doing are those that are a little scary. In organizing a posthumous exhibition of Blaine's work, gallery owner Beverly Reynolds has found this to be true.

The show will be the artist's first at Reynolds Gallery since her death in 1996. It is also the first time the gallery has organized an exhibition made up primarily of works that have been borrowed from collectors across the country. Many of the works will be exhibited for the first time in this region. "It's scary because I didn't know what would be made available," Reynolds says. "It's kind of like putting a puzzle together, and you don't know what the end result will look like."

To Reynolds' relief, Blaine's collectors responded generously to her requests for loans for the exhibition. "The response was exhilarating," she says. "[We're] not a New York gallery but [we're] still doing a major show. We still want to gather some of the best pieces available."

Reynolds has gathered more than 30 pieces of Blaine's work from collectors as far away as California, including Sen. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller IV. Although many of the pieces are on loan, some, including pieces from Blaine's estate, will be for sale. Blaine's work has always commanded respectable prices, and since her death, the value of her art has increased. A small Blaine watercolor now sells for about $12,000. Reynolds remembers that a similar piece would have sold for about $1,200 in 1982.

For those who can't afford such prices, the gallery has printed its first poster, a high-quality reproduction of Blaine's 1977 "Rocks and Bright Foliage" that will be available for $30.

Blaine, who was born in Richmond and studied art at the Richmond School of Art (now VCU) under Theresa Pollak, went on to New York to become the youngest member of the American Abstract Artists Group. An important member of the second generation of painters from the New York school, Blaine's paintings can be found in major personal, corporate and museum collections across the country including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

"She's probably one of the most important artists to have studied at VCU," Reynolds says. "... she was a very significant painter."

Reynolds has represented the artist locally since 1982 and says she has been thinking about doing this show for more than a year. When Martica Sawin's beautiful and informative coffee-table book "Nell Blaine" was released last year, it provided an impetus for Reynolds to begin organizing the exhibit. "I had known about Nell's life through Nell, but the book kind of pulled a lot of it together," Reynolds says. "You really looked at the decades and saw the work that was being done, the changes, and what a strong period the last 30 years had been for her."

Reynolds' exhibition will focus on the last 30 years of Blaine's life, after she had relearned to paint with her left hand from a wheelchair after contracting polio in 1959. The colorful, spontaneous paintings in the exhibition showcase Blaine's trademark loose, rhythmic brush strokes. Because of her limited mobility, Blaine painted the world around her — tablescapes and views from her Riverside Drive apartment and Gloucester, Mass., cottage.

"Although she had some very hard times ... she never lost her wonder of the world around her," Reynolds says. "She totally immersed herself in nature. Even though she couldn't participate in a full way, she certainly did it through her
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