UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 18 Spring 24 Library
Andrea Trimble fills notebooks and sheets of paper with her visions of the built and natural world in her drawing table. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Staff by Day, Artists After Hours 

by Rachel Fenner, UVA Exchange Student '24

(Photo: Courtesy Artsist's Website)

The staff at the University of Virginia do an incredible job of upholding the school's dedication to excellence. Many staff members extend this excellence beyond their own official realm, working hard at executing their own artistic visions. Among us are illustrators, photographers, sculptors, painters, and more. In exploring these brilliant minds, it became abundantly clear that official staff members represent UVA's excellence and mirror the diverse artistic and intellectual condition of the wider world.  

One artist after hours is Andrea Trimble. Working as the University's Sustainability Director by day, Trimble works in watercolor on paper after hours. She is inspired by artists who depict a strong sense of place, imaginary or real, such as urban sketcher Simone Ridyard and architect Peter Zumthor. 

Sinuous lines bearing an intuitive and human quality are a hallmark of her style, with patches of bold color invading negative space between lines with intent. Trimble credits her artistic style to her experiences while studying abroad at university. She participated in a European travel program where she visited a new city or town every few days. For Trimble, drawing on-site meant learning how to make fairly quick sketches, which required easily transportable media like sketchbooks, pens, and watercolor. The artist quickly got hooked on the "fluidity of ink and watercolor," she said, which is still recognizable in her style today. 

Trimble’s art surrounds her in her home studio.
(Photo: Dan Addison, University Communications)

Trimble's carefully constructed style supports her depiction of environmental issues, covering flooding, rising temperatures, and drought. In her series Critical Lines, a painting addresses the issue of rising sea levels by depicting ink-delineated houses pressed against the whiteness of the canvas. Encroaching blue waves create a stark contrast that anticipates the demise of these domestic structures. Such immediacy permeates the rest of the collection, previously displayed at Charlottesville's McGuffey Art Center, and speaks to Trimble's notoriety outside of her professional life at UVA. 

(Photo: Courtesy of SAATCHI ART)

Trimble, whose work can be found on her website, revealed that her success came from practicing balance each week. She fits in creative moments whenever she can, including sketching during her kids' evening activities. The bulk of her artistic work, she said, is done "after hours" on weekends. 

Trimble is not the only staff member working in this two-dimensional medium. Jennifer Claire Smith also has an affinity for watercolor, producing fanciful images that flirt with naturalism and abstraction.  Smith, a Special Assistant in the Molecular Physics & Biophysics Department at UVA, follows an intuitive artistic doctrine and, as she states, focuses on "putting emotions into view" when she paints. This emotional approach, in combination with the buildability of watercolor, gives her work a distinct whimsical flair.

Red Mushrooms on the Forest Floor employs the sensitivity of watercolor, as red tones layer and deepen around white spots to depict two mushroom caps on the right side of the composition. Unrestrained waves of green shoot from the forest floor in the same delicate manner, adding a mystical quality. 

Red Mushrooms on the Forest Floor by Jennifer Claire Smith

Among illustrative artists Trimble and Smith, are photographers like Stacey Evans. Her journey with photography began in middle school when she began capturing photographs for her yearbook until, at some point, the camera just felt 'right' in her hand. She studied photography at VCU and received a BFA in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Stacey Evans
(Photo: Courtesy of Stacey Evans Photography)
"I photograph this scene while driving over Afton Mountain in Virginia to be with my parents as we age."
(Photo: Stacey Evans)

Evans' most recent collection, "Going Back," featured photographs taken as she drives over Afton Mountain on regular trips to see her parents "as we age," Evans shares on her website. The images capture the expansiveness of the American landscape as rolling hills peak into mountains and leak into a deep blue sky framed by pearly white clouds above. Mountains are seen in all seasons contoured by daylight or pushed back into the picture plane by a hazy smog of white. Viewing her photographs feels like nestling your chin into the comfortable corner of the train window as you watch the world pass by in frozen frames. 

"The sky is my escape," Evans proclaimed when I sat down with her in the newly opened library just floors above her office, where she acts as the University's Imaging Specialist and Project Coordinator. "If I look up, I can typically find something of beauty," she amusingly remarked, using a foolproof method that counters the presence of any "ugly" architecture. 

"Going Back"  became a constant in her life as she photographed the same spot over several seasons. Ritualizing the passing-by of her favorite view became a therapeutic endeavor primarily because she had passed this spot throughout her childhood but also because she came to see the changing seasons in relation to both her and her parents' lives. 

Featuring familiar spaces in her work is a familiar practice for Evans, who has been a photographer in Charlottesville since 1995. As a budding photographer myself, we got chatting about the world of photography and her experience of it in Charlottesville. Photographers can feel pressured to find a niche, specializing because it can be a beneficial way to launch their brand into an already over-saturated, self-employed market of photographers. But Evans was able to "do it all," she said, because in a small town like Charlottesville, that worked.

This refusal to confine herself to a single niche has enriched her portfolio, with collages emerging as a prominent feature. Through the process of cutting, tearing, and reshaping printed images, Evans delves into the realm of manipulation and transformation, which, much like photography, is all about perspective. The collages on her Evans website speak to her commitment to exploring the multifaceted nature of photography and image-making. 

If I look up, I can typically find something of beauty...
Stacey Evans

Stacey and I found ourselves engrossed in conversation for much longer than I anticipated. What began as a discussion of photography morphed into an all-consuming conversation about life and the transformative power of perspective. As our dialogue drew to a close, I left enriched with the knowledge of her artistic endeavors. But what she truly left me with the most was an indelible impression of the truly artistic and innovative minds that exist behind official university titles. 

While staff by day, UVA employees are much more than their day jobs. This talented trio of artists underscore how important it is, especially at a place as vibrant as UVA, to engage with those around us to learn about the talent and inspiration surrounding us each and every day. 

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Molly Joyce