The ART Beat of Forsyth Woman
A monthly column that keeps its finger on the pulse of Forsyth’s artists and their inspiring stories
BY TARYN JEREZ
This month’s featured artist, Virginia Christman, understands that the natural beauty of the world takes intention to truly absorb and appreciate the impact it makes on our lives. Through her creative eye, utilizing different mediums she creates connection to all of Mother Nature’s glorious details.
Virginia Christman | Photographer, Printmaker & Mixed-Media Artist
How would you describe your work?
My focus is modern botanical photography. My photos seek to elevate the details of our natural world and often create a sense of place or time, commemorating important and meaningful stories through collections of found and foraged objects.
What experiences and interests have influenced your art most?
I am from West Virginia, but my family visited North Carolina beaches every summer of my childhood. The wind and salt air seemed transformative for the whole family, so the outdoors held early magic for me. My parents were also avid gardeners and I remember some of my favorite days as a family were those spent in the garden together. Storytelling and story holding are vital to my creative practice. My professional life before becoming an entrepreneur was as a hospital and university chaplain, where I witnessed and honored the life-shaping stories of patients and students on a daily basis.
When did you first discover your passion and talent for sharing nature’s unexpected beauty?
I studied Studio Art as an undergraduate but focused mostly on painting. Upon graduating and moving to Los Angeles County, I found it increasingly difficult to paint consistently given the pace of graduate and professional life…and my tiny apartment! But I’ve always loved the outdoors and have a drive to create that has never quieted down, so I started casually collecting and taking pictures of the things I collected. At the same time, I was a hospital chaplain for patients undergoing bone marrow transplants. I learned how sterile their world had to be for months at a time and how deeply many of them yearned for the natural world while separated from it. The combination of these experiences honed my appreciation for natural details and for the quest to communicate what I was seeing to others.
How have you evolved, personally, as an artist?
I think the biggest leap was being willing to actually call myself an artist! It’s amazing how difficult it was to believe that about myself and use the word out loud. I graduated with a degree in studio art but wouldn’t call myself an artist for more than ten years after that. And embracing the title has been an important part of making intentional space for my creative ideas to flourish.
I’ve also had to learn how to create consistently and having a disciplined artistic practice will likely be a growing edge for some time to come. While working as a university chaplain, I participated in “The 100-Day Project” for several years, where people commit to creating one thing a day for 100 days. I credit those projects for igniting my confidence and helping me in both making and sharing art consistently with the world.
What are you working on that excites you right now?
I am planning a summer camp with SECCA that will immerse campers in the process of creating botanical art pieces and also collaborating to create larger pieces of land art all around the SECCA campus. We’re going to have so much fun.
What is something you appreciate about the local art scene?
There are several women artists and small business owners who have generously offered themselves, their expertise, and their various platforms to help me get started as an artist here in Winston-Salem. I’ve been overwhelmed by their repeated generosity and encouragement because they have gone out of their way to introduce me to other artists, share ideas and resources, and collaborate with me on projects that benefit me far more than they benefit them!
What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with fellow artists?
It took me quite a few years to decide that I wanted to try making art professionally. Being consistently creative is an entirely different goal than trying to make money with your creativity, and it took me quite a while to say an enthusiastic “YES” to both. On the other hand, I would encourage creatives that won’t call themselves “real artists” to ask themselves what it is they think of when they think of a real artist? There are as many ways of doing this professional artist life as there are women doing it, so don’t let your preconceptions shut down your imagination for what your life can look like. Happy to help in that imagining process if anyone out there feels stuck!
If you are interested in learning more about Virginia Christman you can follow her on Instagram @virginiachristmanart as well as find her work online on her website, www.virginiachristman.com and her etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/VirginiaChristmanArt.