Behind the Muse: with Renee Somers

I’ve known Renee Somers for nearly 15 years. She is an artist in every sense of the word. She lives it, preaches it, breathes it, studies it, does it, loves it and just can’t get away from it. It bleeds from her. It is her. She currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee but is no stranger to the Valley. Renee’s son, Paul, is a go-to for artful adventures in Harrisonburg, carrying on her passions and giving her ample reasons to visit: film festivals, poetry readings, art shows and…oh yeah, her amazingly sweet grandchildren. This is Renee’s second Art Lotto go-round. Last year she took home the prize for Best Hair with her painting of Matt Sedeen. This year, she’ll be all tangled up in the locks of Matt Hall. Fellow art educator/artist John Bell will be portraying Renee. After meeting with Matt for the first time, Renee sent me the following quick-sketch and thoughts:

Renee Somers Sketch of Matt Hall
Renee’s sketch of Matt Hall after meeting him for the first time.

“I wondered who was the artist I would paint for Art Lotto. I came, I looked, I wondered. I was plopped down on a stool at the Artful Dodger thinking each person I saw might be him. I asked first one and then another. I looked for someone looking for someone. Then about the time I settled in and just decided to relax, I ordered a coffee and told the bartender I was “just waiting for Matt Hall” and he said, “Why he’s right there,” and called him over. He resembled the images I had seen painted through the centuries of the Christ. I was thrilled at the fun hair I would get to paint and my immediate response was to do a Christ look-alike. But who knows where the spirit will take me as I handle this young artists face with my paintbrush and follow the contours of a well-chiseled firm face and curly feathery hair. 

You know, when it comes to Art Lotto, it is about surprise, anticipation, and visual resurrections of our perceptions coupled with the images of the artists we have selected to portray. I took some pictures of Matt and my son, Paul, took some pictures for me. If you want to find out the outcome of this fabulous opportunity, meet me at the Art Lotto opening at the Artful Dodger. Last year and to-date, it was the best art show I had seen in years. The diversity, the talent, and the ambiance of the whole concept, of artists painting artists, was just inspiring. Top that off with the Super Gr8 Film Festival and you have music, passion and art all wrapped up in a artful heartful community.” ~Renee

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Behind the Muse: with Michael Trocchia

“I’m interested in the gaze, in what it holds and hides, in its metaphysic. With this piece, I wanted to work with the gaze of two, both Laura’s and that of Seneca’s, a stoic philosopher from antiquity. So, there is a bit of theater to the piece, a theater of silence perhaps. Laura, you can say, plays the lead and she’s brought something both fierce and vulnerable to it.” ~Michael

above: artist Michael Trocchia in front of his canvas
above: artist Michael Trocchia in front of his canvas

Michael Trocchia might as well just start a revolution. He has been pumping out creativity with every beat of his heart since I met him. The kind of man you walk away from feeling a wee bit smarter. If you don’t believe me, do yourself a solid and grab a cup of coffee, click this link to The Dirty Napkin and press play. You’ll here his voice ooze through the speakers and you’ll be left wondering which is smoother: him or your coffee. Michael has had a heavy hand in many intellectual happenings. You may have seen his films in the Super Gr8 Film Festival, heard him read at countless poetry readings, stumbled upon his published writing in several journals and blogs (like here, and here, and here, oh and here too aaaand here). You may have attended a play he adapted and directed at Court Square Theater called Stephen Crane’s The Blue Hotel in which he also curated an art show inspired by the plot. You may have been a student in his Philosophy class at JMU or witnessed a romantic glare exchanged between him and his lovely wife. But it wouldn’t have been until this year, that you would have seen the art work of Michael Trocchia outside the walls of his home. In January, he held his very first solo art show at Black Swan in Staunton, Va. His show was a collection of portraits inspired by real life ‘characters’. Prior to this show he mainly painted other types of characters: “imaginary people, fictional people, characters dreamed up…ones that belonged to a story never written,” Michael describes.  When this year’s Lotto sign ups came around, he was definitely on my radar. Looking at his work is reminiscent of reading his poetry in that it paints us a picture, except this time, literally. For Art Lotto, Trocchia randomly selected the name of Laura Thompson and we will see his version of her come August. Fellow artist Elliott Downs will be portraying Michael.