Artist shares awe of animals with Parkersburg Art Center exhibit

Merry Cibula, of Athens, Ohio, has a one-person show of her artwork on display through September at the Parkersburg Art Center. (Photo by Wayne Towner)

PARKERSBURG — A long-time interest in art and animals — leavened with several years spent in Africa and more working in a veterinary office — shine through the wildlife and animal portraits of Athens, Ohio, artist Merry Cibula.

The opening reception for “Wildlife & Equine Portraits by Merry Cibula” was held Sunday at the Parkersburg Art Center at Eighth and Market streets in downtown Parkersburg. The exhibits will remain on display through Sept 28.

The show features 72 graphite and colored pencil images created by Cibula. She is a Society of Animal Artist member and has exhibited extensively in shows throughout the country. She has designed cover illustrations for several equine magazines, contributed illustrations to the American Quarter Horse Museum and the Columbus Zoo and has published five limited edition prints.

Cibula said she was an undergraduate at Ohio University under the mentorship of Gary Pettigrew, a professor and head of the fine arts department at the university. She left after her third year to marry and travel to Africa as a member of the Peace Corps for six years. While there, she said it was difficult to acquire art supplies so she took up photography and became interested in animals.

She returned to the U.S., completed her art degree and also worked for a large animal veterinarian. She also took up her art again, focusing on graphite and colored pencils. She loves horses and also liked to visit the zoo where she would take photographs of the animals and use those to create her artwork.

“Wildlife and Equine Portraits by Merry Cibula” is on display through Sept. 28 at the Parkersburg Art Center at Eighth and Market streets. (Photo by Wayne Towner)

“It’s hard to get animals to hold still. To get that kind of detail, especially with colored pencils it takes so long before you can build up the layers to give a kind of painterly work and get that kind of detail in there,” Cibula said.

She generally puts in eight to 20 hours on her smaller pieces and that can grow to 60-70 hours on larger pieces.

“I’m getting quicker as I go along, it doesn’t take quite as long,” she chuckled.

Abby Hayhurst, artistic director of the art center, said it was a recommendation from Pettigrew, Cibula’s mentor and a friend of the art center, which caused them to consider a show. Cibula entered a couple of works in the art center’s Regional group show which raised interest in giving her an exhibit of her own, especially when it was determined that she had enough pieces to support a one-person show.

Hayhurst is especially interested in Cibula’s work as a veterinary technician and its impact on her artwork.

Horses are a favorite subject for Athens artist Merry Cibula and many can be seen in her one-person show at the Parkersburg Art Center. (Photo by Wayne Towner)

“One of the things that makes these pieces so fabulous is that they are so detailed anatomically. There’s no sense that this is someone painting a horse arbitrarily, you can tell this is a real horse,” she said.

Prints of some of Cibula’s work are on sale throughout the exhibit. Anyone purchasing one can have their items framed at The Framing Gallery at the PAC. Art center members will receive a 20 percent discount on those and other framing orders.

The Parkersburg Art Center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $2 for non-members and free for members and children ages 12 and under. Wednesdays are free days.

The art center also has a popular event returning this weekend. The Y’Art Sale will be 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, which is the art center’s semi-annual yard sale of artworks, art and craft supplies and other items donated by businesses, artists and others. Admission is free.

Wayne Towner can be contacted at wtowner@newsandsentinel.com