'Shining Light' exhibit highlights folk artists Scyphers, Johnson

"Community" from "Shining Light" exhibit

JOHNSON CITY (July 1, 2013) – “Shining Light: Folk Artists Minnie Ma Scyphers and Nancy Johnson” will be on display at East Tennessee State University’s Reece Museum through Nov. 2.

This exhibition, created by the William King Museum, highlights Nancy Johnson and the late Minnie Ma Scyphers, two folk artists from Abingdon, Va.

Johnson grew up in the Blacksburg Community, near Emory, in Washington County, Va.  Raised by a physically challenged mother, she is the eighth child in a family of 11 children.  After a 17-year career in nursing, she began painting in 1989.  Much of Johnson’s work is inspired by family history and childhood memories. Her work, which incorporates a range of materials, including paint, glitter, stickers, pencil shavings and paper, also references the early history of African Americans from the region and beyond. Johnson delights in telling childhood stories in an amusing, candid and heartfelt manner to the many people who visit her studio in Abingdon’s Arts Depot. 

Scyphers was born and raised in Hayter’s Gap in Washington County, Va.  After moving into the old Brumley Gap School in her 70s, she began her artistic life.  The prolific artist filled her home with paintings and set it up as an art gallery that she referred to as Minnie Ma’s Art House.  Her landscapes were typically painted from memory, but she also sketched and painted scenes on-site. Her interior scenes of pleasant homes with paintings on the walls and neat furnishings seem to be of her fantasy home. In one of her two books of poetry, she stated, “I do not want to bury any talent which I might have; what little light I have, I want to let it shine.”  Scyphers’ Virginia descendants donated several of her paintings to the William King Museum in 2010.

“Part of the Reece Museum’s mission is to celebrate the people and places of Appalachia through exhibitions,” says Reece Museum Director Theresa Hammons.  “The Reece is proud to display historical and contemporary art from regional artists.  The creative spirit has thrived in this region and is still alive and well. This is evident in the colorful and inspiring art of Minnie Ma Scyphers and Nancy Johnson.”

A reception for this exhibit will be held on Thursday, July 25, at 5:30 p.m. at the Reece Museum.  Leila Cartier, curator of the exhibition, and artist Nancy Johnson will provide a gallery talk.  Descendents of Minnie Ma Scyphers will also be present to talk with visitors one-on-one.

The Reece Museum is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursdays from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.  Admission is free, and parking passes are available for weekday visitors.  Group tours are also available.

For more information, to arrange a group tour, or for special assistance for those with disabilities, contact the Reece Museum at (423) 439-4392. 

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