Two doors down from my parent’s house growing up was the Railey house. One of my best friends as a kid, Clay lived there. Clay grew up and became a priest. I grew up and eventually became an artist. Not too long after my wife Jen and I were married my dad died. The old neighborhood was changing. My mom lived alone as a widow in our family home. The Railey house turned over and an artsy couple with two children moved in. The woman, Ria, I’m guessing was in her early forties and I was now in my mid-twenties. She was a very attractive woman with a beautiful sounding European accent. She would visit with my mom and eventually we all became good friends.
I had been to art school, graduated with a Fine Arts degree and then decided to go back and get my accounting degree and was working in accounting. My wife had started a salad dressing business that was taking off which also required a lot of my time. I unfortunately had little time for art. One day Ria invited me down the street to her home to see a painting that she was working on. I walked into my old friend Clay’s home and what was Clay’s basement, where we would pretend we were the Beach Boys banging on drums, was now Ria’s art studio. I had no idea whether she was any good. I did know that I liked Ria. She wasn’t like anyone I had ever met before. She was artistic, dressed with a flair and spoke beautifully.
There on her drafting table was a realistic oil painting of a cowboy on a horse that was so masterfully done it didn’t seem possible that someone had painted it. She hadn’t quite finished the sky so it was obviously her unfinished painting. I couldn’t believe how smooth it was, how rich the colors were. How could she paint this?
She enlightened me as to her use of masonite (painting on board) in order to develop a perfectly smooth surface. It turns out that she had learned how to paint in the Netherlands, learning the traditional methods that the Old Masters employed. She knew all the techniques and tricks of the trade that my teachers at the University of MD did not! Most of my teachers encouraged Abstract Expressionism and other forms of modern art and discouraged Realism. Turns out our neighbor down the street, Ria, was a master!
We moved to Maine in 1990 and lost touch with Ria. Last we heard, which was about 22 years ago, she was living in the mountains of North Carolina and she was painting her American Indian art. We’ve often wondered over the years whether she was still painting and how she was doing etc… Well this week we found out!
Jen was online researching new gallery representation when she discovered a gallery in Middleburg, VA. Jen was in her office across the hall from my studio, perusing the artist roster when she yelled out to me that Ria DeWit was an artist at this gallery. Could it be the same Ria that we knew???
Jen tracked down her phone number, called her and out of the blue we have reconnected with our long lost artist friend. We both were so glad to find out that after over twenty years of being out of touch, she is well and is now painting masterful still life paintings. Her son has inherited her gift and is also pursuing his art. It was an emotional moment hearing Ria’s voice and knowing that this mystery had a happy ending.
I tell this story because I want to share with you a few of her magnificent still life paintings. We are excited about seeing her upcoming show in Leesburg, VA in May and can’t wait to get all caught up with our long lost artist friend Ria DeWit.