For those who see 97-year-old Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury (RWC) resident Margaret Feil’s artwork in the Rappahannock Art League’s (RAL) 58th annual Labor Day Art Show and think it’s a bit strange, don’t worry. She does too!
Born and raised in Dinwiddie County and then living in Petersburg for most of her adult life, Feil moved to RWC with her second husband in 1999.
She has been an artist for as long as her son, Dana Smith, can remember.
“She’s always painted and dabbled in every medium out there,” he said. “She started with oils, then encaustics (dry pigments mixed with hot wax), she settled into acrylics and then, in the 1990s she got into watercolors and collage.”
Feil stopped painting and creating when she moved into assisted living but started again when the well-equipped art studios opened in RWC’s new Life Enrichment Center in 2017, and with encouragement from Amy Lewis, RWC’s coordinator of resident program development.
“She started with crayons and paintbrushes, but found it frustrating,” Smith said. “Amy found watercolor pens with a brush on the tip and my mother loves them. She’s been creating these bizarre faces. She totally focuses on doing a face. You can hear her laughing while she’s working on them; she’s in her own little zone. The staff compliments her work, then six minutes later she’ll say, ‘Who did this?’ When we tell her she did, she says, ‘No. I would never do anything this ugly.’ She has no memory of doing any of this.”
Feil has been working on her faces since last fall, and Smith and his personal aide Punky Brooks, have been saving them all. Lewis suggested they enter them in RAL’s Labor Day art show. They found a frame with plexiglass that fit the artwork perfectly and submitted it to the show.
“When I see these faces, I think, ‘Where is this coming from in her head?’” he said. “My mother never did portraits except maybe two in the 1960s and 70s. She focused on still life and landscapes. These are very mysterious, very otherworldly.”
Feil’s work, along with that of several other local artists, will be on display at RAL Art Center, 19 North Main Street, Kilmarnock, August 28-September 28.