Amherst art teachers show works at Sweet Briar

Posted on March 15, 2017 by Janika Carey

Original artwork by Amherst County elementary school teachers Lauren Balint and Jenna Holton is the focus of an upcoming exhibition in Benedict Gallery at Sweet Briar College. The show opens with a reception at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 23, and will run until April 30.

Jenna Holton, “The Fall,” hand-woven cotton thread Jenna Holton, “The Fall,” hand-woven cotton thread, 32” x 42”, 2014

Sweet Briar College galleries director Karol Lawson says Balint and Holton’s exhibit is a follow-up to two other art shows in that gallery space. Last spring, the College displayed works created by Amherst County High School students, while the beginning of this semester focused on the accomplishments of ACHS teachers.

“I am pleased that these very busy teachers have made a special effort to share their professional work during the academic year,” Lawson said. “It is not a simple thing to get work ready for an exhibition. I hope that the parents of their students and school leaders appreciate these talented individuals who enrich the Amherst educational community.”

Holton, an art teacher at Amelon and Madison Heights elementary schools, says she expresses herself through weaving, using pattern and color to illustrate the physicality of negative emotions.

“My inspiration comes from previous experiences with fear, panic and grief, as well as from modern and contemporary textiles and paintings,” she says.

Holton first discovered weaving as an undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University and fell in love with its visual and tactile qualities. She also has a background working in textiles, making soft sculpture out of recycled fabric. Her love of textiles has led her to create abstract pieces of art that “encapsulate various experiences,” she says.

Fellow art educator Lauren Balint is a Pennsylvania native who teaches at Temperance, Pleasant View and Elon elementary schools. Balint’s interest in sculpture and ceramics was sparked while studying art education at Mercyhurst College. Her senior project consisted of nine clusters of fungus-like sculptures inspired by Frank Gehry’s architecture. The pieces she is exhibiting at Sweet Briar build on that work.

“My idea was to use pressed and pulled slabs to create organic forms that would mimic the beauty of the simplistic curves and folds of the nature I’ve explored,” Balint says. “Each grouping of ceramic pieces is made of several forms that can fit together, as one sees fit, or stand alone.”

Lauren Balint, “Let Our Shadows Fall Away Like Dust,” stoneware Lauren Balint, “Let Our Shadows Fall Away Like Dust,” stoneware, 24” x 3” x 24”, 2016.

Recently, Balint has also played with different glazes and “evolving the once fungus-like forms into other organic forms, like waves and coral.”

An avid traveler, Balint draws inspiration from the landscapes she encounters on her trips up and down the East Coast — including to her parents’ home on Saint Helena Island in South Carolina and her hometown of Pittsburgh. A camping trip last summer took her through the Adirondack Mountains in New York, the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Mount Desert Island in Maine. This summer, she plans to climb Mount Washington and explore New Orleans.

In between trips, Balint admires — and is inspired by — the Blue Ridge Mountains, seen from her windows in Amherst, where she moved in 2012.

Benedict Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The gallery closes when the College is not in session; it is recommended that visitors call ahead to confirm hours. For more information, contact Karol Lawson at (434) 381-6248 or