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Getting to Know...

Frances Vecchi

Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 9, the original oil paintings of Frances Vecchi will be on display at the Great Falls Library, located at 9830 Georgetown Pike. Vecchi, a Great Falls resident and a member of Great Falls Studios and the Artists’ Atelier in the Great Falls Village Center, specializes in large, Romantic Realist oil paintings. The exhibit will run Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Wednesday, Jan. 31. The public is invited to an opening reception on Sunday Jan. 14, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Great Falls Library. Music and light refreshments will be provided.

The Great Falls Library show, entitled "The Four Seasons," is a collection of the artist’s original oil paintings, which are done from life and depict a variety of subjects. The major emphasis is on landscape as it changes throughout the year.

All work is available for sale. For more information or for purchase, contact Frances Vecchi at fvkllc@aol.com.

Number of years in the community. I have lived in Great Falls since 1998, when we moved here from Connecticut with our youngest child, Eva. During this time my husband and I spent two years living in Dublin, Ireland for his work. We moved back from Dublin one year ago.

Family. My husband is Dr. Mario Vecchi. He is in technology and has most recently been in charge of AOL's Global Technology, here in Dulles, in Dublin, Ireland, and in Bangalore, India. Our children are: Dr. Gabriel Vecchi, 33 — his new bride is the lovely Anna. He is a research professor in physical oceanography with Princeton University and NOAA; Dan Vecchi, 25, is working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay. He is an economist, writer and musician; Eva Vecchi, 23, graduated from Langley High School, and received her bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado. She is presently a graduate student at Georgetown University in Computational Linguistics, and works with MITRE.

Education. I received my bachelor's degree in arts and sciences from Cornell University, and did graduate work at Boston University in fine arts. I have studied at the Art League in Alexandria with Rob Liberace and Danni Dawson, and have also studied with Nelson Shanks, James McGinley, and with Magdelaine Mocquot in Paris. I have done specialized art courses in Italy, France, Ireland and Venezuela, as well as at the Art Student's League in Denver.

Current Job/Primary Occupation. I am presently a dedicated artist, living and working in Great Falls. I do Romantic Realist oil paintings. I am one of the founding members of the Artists' Atelier in the Great Falls Village Center, and I am a member of Great Falls Studios. I love studying the work of the great artists of the past — Rembrandt, Velasquez, Sargent, Sorolla, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Monet, Gauguin — the inspiration is endless! Three things motivate me: The first is that I thrive on the actual process of creating the work — the variations of the effects of oil paints on canvas are endless. I work from life, and that is fascinating. You truly empathize with a winter landscape when you are trying to hold a brush and paint with three layers of gloves to keep out the cold. The flickering, changing light as leaves fall from autumn trees all around you gives movement to any painting, and the conversation and animation of a portrait model are what infuse life into the finished work. Occasionally I refer to photos which I take when a location or a transitory lighting effect or a busy person's pose cannot be maintained over time or reproduced. That is fun too — I love my work. The second thing that motivates me is seeing the finished work. I am totally removed from the creative process, and I am always entranced by the final effect. The third thing that motivates me is also the most rewarding aspect of art, and that is the response of the viewer to my work. It is so beautiful because they see things I never imagined, but which are naturally infused in the painting — the personality of the model, or the landscape. Their emotionally positive response is the best thing in the world.

Achievements. Most recently, my work has been featured in "Elan" Magazine. My paintings are on display at the Artists' Atelier Gallery in the Great Falls Village Center, and in Java Junction, located at 1025 Seneca Road, Suite D, as well as in the Visitors' Center of Riverbend Park. My local, solo shows have been in Saveur in Georgetown, in ROW Gallery in Washington, D.C., and in the Riverbend Park Visitor's Center. My work has won numerous awards including several first prizes and "Best in Show" in Somerset Co. and Raritan Valley Arts Assoc. (RVAA) in New Jersey. I subsequently served as president of the RVAA, and was appointed to the Somerset County Arts Council just before moving to Colorado. I have participated in many solo and group shows within the U.S., Europe and Latin America. These included the American Embassy in Caracas, the Alliance Francaise, and the National Research Center (IVIC), and the United Arts Club, in Dublin, Ireland.

Activities/Interests/Hobbies. I love the parks in and around Great Falls — the nature here is extraordinary. I am fascinated by travel and learning languages, which I find so stimulating. Every place I have visited or lived in, and all the fascinating people I have met, stay with me and influence my ideas and work. They are my world. Everywhere I turn, the world is beautiful. I love seeing my children make their way in the world. And of course I like to read, go to movies and play with my Sheltie-dog.

Favorite local restaurant or place in the community? Java Junction is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy coffee, food and conversation, and to see local artwork beautifully displayed. To spend some time there is a truly an enjoyable and cultural experience. In a similar fashion, Riverbend Park is a great place to enjoy nature along the Potomac and to see beautiful art exhibits. For a good meal with happy and comfortable surroundings and fabulous music, we love the Old Brogue. Fior' di Luna is great — we love the food, and the beautiful music. And of course, L'Auberge Chez Francois!

What are your community concerns? What are some ideas you have on ways to improve your community? Oh, how I wish we had more sidewalks everywhere to walk comfortably and see this beautiful place!

What brought you here? My husband Mario brought us here when he started working at AOL, where he has worked in technology. Most recently, he ran their International Development program from Dulles, Dublin, Ireland and Bangalore, India.

What community "hidden treasure" do you think more people should know about? Well, of course that is the "Artists' Atelier!" It is a unique, unusual and innovative concept. We are seven artists in a beautiful environment in the Great Falls Village Center. You can go in, sit down, relax, watch the artists work and talk with them so that you see and understand how the creative process actually happens. You might even be able to have your portrait painted while you are there! Each artwork is a new creation — unpredictable, not part of a mass production of pretty things, but a real, personal artist's concept and interpretation of visual beauty. Each artist and each of their works is totally unique. Every time you go you will see something new, something evolving and visually exciting. The conversation is always fascinating and the environment is one of beauty and ideas. You can watch the original work being created, ask the artist all about it and enjoy seeing, and perhaps purchasing, the finished work as it is put up for exhibition and sale. Here we flourish — this is art at its best!

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you "grew up?" A ballet dancer, perhaps a writer, an artist, maybe something in the sciences, or a diplomat! My husband, my oldest son, and my daughter are in science/technology. My daughter is also a ballet dancer. My second son is a writer and Peace Corps "diplomat..." I guess that leaves "artist," and that would be me. All my dreams fulfilled!

Where do you see yourself in five years? I am so happy that being an artist allows me to work anywhere. One of the many beauties of life with Mario is that I never know what wonderful situation will evolve next. His work is very dynamic. We have lived in many places and thus life is always wonderful and new. So, although I don't know "where" we will be literally, I do know that in five years I will be traveling, painting and exhibiting art, true to my vision. I expect it to be always more and more exciting!

Personal goals? I am preparing an exhibition of paintings based on my experiences in pre-Tsunami Sri Lanka, with views of the exquisite beauty before the devastation of the wave, and the recovery afterward. I am very excited about this project. It will pull in multiple participants and address multiple issues. The goal is to help maintain awareness of the ongoing need for Tsunami-Relief. The paintings are beautiful and dramatic, and I hope to convey the drama of the situation in a way that will be energizing and uplifting.