February 3, 2023
A mother-son art exhibit in Richwood drew a lively crowd of about sixty Thursday evening at Bloomfield Gallery on Main Street. Entitled “Fire. Earth. Water,” the gallery opening featured several dozen works by Raleigh County native Deborah Lester and her son, Jamie Lester of Morgantown. Both were on hand for the opening.
Curator and Bloomfield owner Cecil Ybanez met the two acclaimed artists at Tamarack, where Debbie Lester has been a Tamarack Artist since 1996. This is the third time Debbie and Jamie have exhibited together as mother and son.
A native of Oceana, Debbie teaches watercolor classes at Tamarack as well as the Beckley Arts Center. Cecil was captivated by her naturist style. “She takes her inspiration from the world around her,” he said, “landscapes, flowers, especially irises.” But she also paints man-made images, notably a water color entitled “Kopperston Coal Tipple,” where her coal-miner father worked. She used a pigment called Antwerp blue to render the industrial tipple in almost cubistic style while the more organic foliage and mountains and sky seem ready to reclaim the space for nature.
Debbie raised her son Jamie to be an artist. “I encouraged him to express himself from an early age,” she said, providing him with the space, time and materials to explore art. The seed she planted flourished. Jamie earned a degree in fine arts from West Virginia University in Morgantown where he lives and creates today. He studied abroad in Rome and China and his works have earned him membership in the Portrait Society of America and the National Sculpture Society. Jamie is the founder of Love, Hope, Arts, a gallery/studio in Fayetteville. It is there he gets together with his band, The Lords of Lester, for frequent jam sessions. Jamie will also exhibit his own works there later this year.
Jamie’s medium is sculpture–mostly stone and bronze–and he has developed an impressive list of clients. His life-sized bronze work, “Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance,” commemorates firefighters who lost their lives on 911. Several of his bronze pieces are on display at the Boy Scout complex near Beckley.
“Jamie’s work is exquisitely detailed,” Cecil explained. “He likes realism but he likes the reaction he gets from his abstract works.” Most of his sculptures are of the human form, mainly produced in stonework and bronze. His work that seemed to attract the most attention on Thursday was “The Coal Mind,” a less forgiving take on the same coal tipple his mother painted. In this stone sculpture, a coal tipple appears to pour coal into the head of a shirtless miner whose body is wracked with overwork.
“Fire. Earth. Water” will be open through March 5 at Bloomfield Richwood, where most items are available for purchase. Gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday from noon to 6:30.