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Shelton’s Vibrant Watercolors To Be Unveiled Thursday

With three big professional musicals playing in The Prizery’s Chastain Theatre all summer, exhibit designer Ralph Wileman knew he wanted something wonderful and worthy hanging in the art gallery. He turned to the work of Karen Shelton, the highly decorated South Boston watercolorist.

The Prizery hosts a free, light reception from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. Thursday to celebrate Shelton and to mark the opening of “Dames at Sea,” which begins at 7:30 p.m.

There are the subjects Shelton is known and dearly loved for: bell peppers in sunlight, yellow maple leaves, bright tulips in a vase – but there are also mixed-media abstracts that don’t signal “Karen Shelton” as readily as her other works.

“I’m known for [traditional still-life work], and I love it, and I’d never stop,” said Shelton. “But it’s great fun for me to take a departure. It’s freeing and fun.”

One of the more serendipitous works is “Prizery/Creative Lighting,” a seemingly traditional floral with, upon close inspection, somewhat unnatural lighting.

A photograph (Shelton often starts with photos as a source) of a grand flower arrangement was snapped during the Parsons-Bruce Arts Show gala back in the fall. Shelton then worked on the painting, as a demonstration during the Arts Builds Communities conference at The Prizery in October. Now – coming full circle – finished and framed, it hangs in the new Prizery exhibit.

Wileman, professor emeritus of education at UNC-Chapel Hill who has retired to Vernon Hill, curated and designed the exhibit with the help of Buddy East.

The works are for sale.

Shelton is a signature member of the Virginia Watercolor Society and the Southern Watercolor Society.  Her works hang throughout the Mid-Atlantic and garnered five best-in-show awards in 2009 alone.

The Prizery receives support from the Virginia Commission of the Arts.