The First Day of the Year

The First Day of the Year

LAURA PHARIS (b. Roanoke, Virginia, 1948)

The First Day of the Year, 1983
etching with aquatint

Collection of the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts
The Jack Blanton Collection
Gift of Jack Blanton

Laura Pharis wanted to be an artist all her life. When she was in the 7th grade she took classes at the Roanoke Fine Arts Center taught by Leo Pagenhart and Barbara Bishop. At that time Bishop had just graduated from the art department at Longwood. She went on to teach at Longwood, chair the art department, and establish the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts. Pharis enthusiastically recalls learning art from Bishop and Pagenhart. “They brought to us young teens for the first time: blind contour drawing, gesture drawing, the concept of negative space, and they emphasized the formal, the abstract. This would have been about 1962. They seemed to me at that time to possess the Holy Grail. They assigned each of us to complete 100 contour drawings a week! I was drawing all the time. I remember drawing at a stop light. (My mother was driving.) Barbara Bishop was a wonderful teacher, generous, warm, serious, and very intelligent. She gave us students credit for being intelligent, too. She influenced me both as a studio teacher and as a role model.”

Pharis earned her B.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University and her M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is now a faculty member in the art department at Sweet Briar College.

About the work shown here, Pharis explains, “I used to be manager of the Richmond Printmaking Workshop. The Printmaking Workshop, in turn, gave birth to the Print Club, an organization devoted to supporting printmaking while learning more about its practitioners and techniques. Each year, as a Print Club membership perk, an original print was given to members of the Print Club. The First Day of the Year was the 1983 Print Club Print. The scene is something that I saw on a walk to Richmond, Virginia’s, Byrd Park on January 1st.”