Marcella Chandler Blomberg honored by Parkersburg Art Center

“Scientific,” acrylic on canvas

PARKERSBURG — A local artist is being honored with a retrospective during July at the Parkersburg Art Center.

Works by the late Marcella Chandler Blomberg (1937-2018) will open with a reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday at the art center at Eighth and Market streets. “Marcella Blomberg: a Memorial Retrospective” will be on display through July 20.

The opening reception is being hosted by Blomberg’s children, Kathleen, Eric and Greg. Admission for non-art center members is $10 per person, with no charge for members or for children under the age of 12. The limited-run exhibit continues Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with daily admission at $2 for non-members and free for children.

A long-time resident of Parkersburg, Blomberg was born in Littlefield, Texas, and earned a Masters of Fine Arts from West Texas State. She accepted a teaching position in Midland, Texas, where she met and married John Blomberg, an engineer with Pennzoil. Transferred by the company to Parkersburg in 1964, both Blombergs became vital participants in the arts in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

“We tend to pigeon-hole artists by their mediums of choice, like ‘such and such is a watercolorist,’ or ‘so-and-so does clay,’ but it is utterly impossible to do that with Marcella,” says Abby Hayhurst, artistic director of the art center and co-curator of the Blomberg exhibit. “I expect most people know her best for her liturgical works in bronze, stained glass and stone because they are featured in a number of West Virginia’s churches … but these are just a few skills out of many.”

After the move to Parkersburg, Blomberg went to work as an art teacher at St. Joseph Preparatory Seminary in Vienna, where she taught a broad variety of art disciplines from painting to silversmithing. She became interested in sacred art while teaching at the seminary, and began accepting church commissions. In 2000, she was recognized with the national Visual Arts Award for permanent art in churches.

According to Hayhurst, the exhibit, titled “Marcella Blomberg: a Memorial Retrospective,” is a sample of the artist’s work.

“There are a number of bronzes, but there are also many paintings, clay pieces, textiles, batiks and mosaics, and a spectacular dollhouse she built for her granddaughter. There’s even one unfinished sample of Marcella’s intricate beadwork, a charming little lizard that visitors will see climbing up the blue wall. Her curved beading needle is still in the piece.”

One long wall of the gallery has been given over to Blomberg’s linoleum block printing cuts, according to art center managing director Jessie Siefert. In this technique, a v-shaped carving tool is used to grave the negative version of the subject into the surface of the linoleum, which is then inked, and a print on paper is “pulled.”

“You don’t see this type of work much any more, probably because it’s difficult and hazardous. We wanted to display them, but it’s hard to tell what you are looking at when you just see the linoleum. We asked Kathleen Blomberg for permission to ink her mother’s blocks. She agreed, and it turned out that Kylie Lallemont, our summer intern from the Community Foundation’s Civic Leadership program, had recently taken a class in block printing. Kylie’s spent the last several days pulling prints to display with Marcella’s many blocks,” Siefert said.

An avid birdwatcher and Master Gardener, Blomberg’s love of nature is apparent in her choice of subject matter for her art work. The Blombergs had a greenhouse in their home, and grew orchids and bonsai.

“Natural shapes and forms inform all of Marcella’s pieces, no matter what sort of materials she was using,” Hayhurst said. “Even the abstract pieces have referents to subjects from nature. One of our favorite pieces is a comical clay sculpture of an opossum, happily snoozing on a purple pillow. Marcella used to have a pet opossum named Poco. She trained him to use a litterbox; perhaps this little guy is a portrait. Marcella was passionate about nature in all forms,” she said.

A number of Blomberg’s works in all mediums will be for sale during the exhibit, according to Hayhurst.

“Family members have already earmarked the pieces they want to keep, but Marcella was as prolific as she was creative and skilled. There are 78 works on display, from bronze miniatures to large canvasses. Everyone will have an opportunity to take home a treasure; a piece of our area’s art history,” she said.

Wayne Towner can be reached at wtowner@newsandsentinel.com