Local painters are inspired by the unique beauty of River Farm
It may be difficult for those outside the Northern Virginia region to understand the true significance of River Farm when they have not been able to share experiences at the historic home and gardens.
Some have said their vows in the Manor House on one of the most important days of their lives. Others have children who visited its "Children's Garden" and departed with flowers and herbs' fragrance. Many hold memories of picnics, dog walks, bird-watching, and more.
Painters also hold a profound affection for River Farm's beauty. Many of its trees, flowers, and other plants are indigenous to the region, which make for captivating and inspiring art subjects.
"I'm very compelled by the wild meadow's visual complexities, biodiversity, and regenerative capacities," said historian, teacher, and painter Leigh Culver.
Culver holds a doctorate in Art History from the University of Pennsylvania and taught American Art for the University of Notre Dame's Washington Program for over a decade.
Naturally, River Farm's history would attract Culver as the property represents the intersection where art and history meet.
"I've done a series of paintings called "Still Standing" based on River Farm subjects. Now the title seems very apropos," Culver said.
Culver refers to River Farm's uncertain future as a campaign appropriately named "Save River Farm" tries to prevent the property from being sold to developers. The proposed sale could negatively impact the land, the species that inhabit it, and its history as one of George Washington's farms he purchased in 1760.
Culver isn't the only artist to bat an eye or swoosh their brush at the property.
Artist Judy Heiser, studio artist for the Torpedo Factory Arts Center, "fell in love" with River Farm as a wedding attendee and has found herself visiting for various reasons, further proof of the land's diverse value.
Paintings Courtesy of Judy Heiser
"Naturally, I fell in love with it, and over the years had opportunities to visit, explore, take yoga classes, and paint; I am constantly grateful to experience the landscape."
Heiser enjoys painting subjects associated with "Plein Air painters," which in French means "Open-air painters" for its diversity in compositions' choice.
"Gardens, historical farmhouses, river views, incredible trees, wildflowers, and more. Oftentimes someone will ask where is this painting from? Or even, 'I know that tree! It's at River Farm," Heiser said.
There's also a spirit of tranquility that artists have associated with the property that they find is interpretable in the paintings.
"When I'm painting on location, there's a connection to the subject that translates to canvas, as the clouds move, the wind breezes through the trees, leaves flutter, fall, river reflects and sparkles. It's not the same as a snapshot," Heiser said.
With River Farm's future hanging in the balance, patrons of this historic property can only hope that the Save River Farm campaign succeeds. Success would ensure the property remains open to the public for all time and that talented artists like Leigh Culver and Judy Heiser can continue to be inspired by this Northern Virginia treasure.