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'Exuberant Energy and a Zest for Life'

Amy Schlenker displays work at ValeArts Oct. 13-15.

A lifetime of exposure to modern art and artists led Amy Murchison Schlenker to begin painting nearly 10 years ago. The Fairfax resident and her bright, tactile abstract paintings will be featured at the ValeArts art show in Oakton the weekend of Oct. 13, with an opening reception Friday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. For more about Schlenker's work, visit her Web site at www.amyschlenker.com.

Who are your major art influences? Diebenkorn, Pollok, De Kooning, Picasso, and Rothko are my major art influences, as is the wonderfully talented D.C.-area abstract artist and teacher Joyce McCarten, with her bundle-of-energy approach to painting and teaching. Joyce has taught me to follow my dreams when painting, my own ideas, and to experiment. She encourages me to move beyond the "easy" and to take risks. When I paint my inspiration varies: perhaps it's the shimmering lines of a shadow in late afternoon, a funky spotted green vase atop a richly patterned African cloth, a child playing with a toy train full of potatoes, or maybe memories of zooming past a mystical castle on the Autobahn. It's life, as I know and feel it, which shows in my paintings.

When did you first get inspired to create art? From the time I was very young I loved art. My mom says growing up I was always drawing or creating something. Then one day in 1992, a new world opened after I visited a Matisse exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. A love of abstract/contemporary art emerged and continued to grow as I visited other galleries in the United States and overseas. Always it was the abstract painters and sculptors that got my heart beating. Perhaps it was exposure, since infancy, to the amazing modern art collection at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in my hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. that sowed the seeds of this love. After seeing so much wonderful art, I got my first acrylics in the late 1990s and began teaching myself to paint, imitating favorite abstract and contemporary paintings I fell in love with to learn about brushwork and color mixing. I knew I wanted to be an artist after I took my first abstract art class.

What is the motif of the show? What is special about it? The ValeArts 11th annual fall art show and sale Oct. 13-15, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., located in the historic Vale Schoolhouse in at 3124 Fox Mill Road, in Oakton showcases a beautiful collection original traditional and contemporary art by nine local artists. In 1932, the Vale Demonstration Club bought the schoolhouse and intended it would be a place where local people would gather and share. It's quite special that in 2006 we're continuing that 1932 vision by offering a relaxing, historic setting where residents of all ages can come and enjoy and purchase art and share in a common creative joy. Additionally, 10 percent of the proceeds from a selection of my work will be donated to INOVA Fairfax Life With Cancer and Smith Farm For Healing and The Arts. These two non-profit organizations are tremendously supportive of D.C. metro area residents going through cancer treatment and were invaluable during my recovery from breast cancer.

Where do you do most of your work? Do you prefer a bedroom, studio, outside, lot of light, little light, etc.? I do most of my work in my studio in my house. My favorite place to paint is one that has plenty of natural light and has a relaxing view of outside.

What do you listen to when you work? Is it reflected in the work you create? I often listen to music while I paint. I vary it depending on the stage I'm at in my painting. When I begin I like to listen to more assertive rock music to get my energy and lines/brushwork flowing. Usually, I change to classical as I develop the painting and then as I'm in the most challenging stage of pulling the final painting together I turn the music off to really concentrate.

Favorite medium to use and why? I typically begin a painting with charcoal on canvas or paper and then interweave acrylic paint, collage, oil pastels and more charcoal. As I work layers form with bits of a previous layer peeking through. This technique creates an active, rich painting and is one where I can reflect my style, one that puts exuberant energy and a zest for life on canvas.

What do you hope viewers get out of the art show? I hope viewers will enjoy the variety of artwork and discover something that excites them. Additionally, I hope they will enjoy the opportunity to meet and talk to the artists that created the works.

Any local community influences in your work? It's life, as I know and feel it, which shows in my paintings. As a resident of Fairfax City for the past nine years it's inevitable that my love of the area and happiness here is reflected in my work. When people see my work I hope they connect with a playful, spirited place, where dreams are possible.

Favorite art work: Of my own artwork my favorites are "Lasso" and "Welcome."

Ten percent of proceeds from sale of "Rosaloo" and "Dancing Houses" giclees, postcards and laser prints will be donated to Inova's Life With Cancer.

— Lea Mae Rice