Avis Fleming '58 captures Sundays

The Alexandria (VA) Black History Resource Center recently displayed paintings by Avis Fleming '58. Her "Sunday Series," a culmination of three years of work showing expressive moments in an ordinary day, is a tribute to three models who pose for a gesture drawing and painting class Fleming teaches. As the models posed in the studio, Fleming painted them into settings that echoed the poses' moods.

"The series just happened," Fleming says. "I created the situation in each drawing. The models created the series. They help me get across a sense of family. All three have extremely expressive faces."

Fleming has taught figure drawing and painting at the Art League School in the Torpedo Factory Art Center since 1987. Over the years, the models-each deeply interested in art-became involved in the lessons, considering the students' work and Fleming's instruction.

"They become part of the class," Fleming says. "They have created a unique sense of community as they developed their relationships with each other and with the students. They have the ability to project a feeling of shared intimacy, of relaxation and connection with each other, that extends to the classroom of artists working with them. There is an aura of actor-audience electricity that transfers the energy of the scene they have created to those working to capture it visually."

Accordingly, the paintings in the "Sunday Series"-so-called to suggest the quiet of a Sunday morning after a busy week-project family life, community engagement and the combination of love, tension and a little bit of the confrontation that exists in any relationship. They are mostly combinations of watercolor, ink wash, color pencil and crayon.

While working on the series, Fleming felt a spiritual kinship with William Johnson's paintings of life in low country South Carolina and with Jules Pascin's and Pop Hart's street drawings of New Orleans.

These latter scenes Fleming knows well: She started painting and drawing in the swamps and bayous of her childhood home, Lafitte LA, south of New Orleans, where she was born. Alexander Soper, a BMC professor of art history and authority on Asian art, encouraged her to continue painting while she was a student of philosophy. Figure drawing became a lifelong occupation after studying illustration and graphic art at the Pratt Institute with sculptor Calvin Albert. She then moved to Alexandria VA with her husband, Paul Hodge, and two sons. Now she and Paul live on an eight-acre farm in Middleburg VA and keep ponies and steers.

Fleming's work has been exhibited throughout the Washington DC area, most recently at the National Horticultural Society in Alexandria in a show called "Natural Observations."

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