Ladies’ Art Retreat
Oct 13, 2014 08:27PM
By Erica Shames
Story and photographs by Alice Baldys
By the banks along the Susquehanna just outside Lewisburg there is a little cream-colored cottage. Inside is a semicircle of women seated around a kitchen table, each poised with a paintbrush in hand. Let your eyes travel around the table to each face. There is a woman with short, dark hair. There is a schoolteacher with graying hair and large-frame glasses. There is a woman with blond hair cut at the shoulder. Follow the curve until each new face has been greeted, counting eight in all. Each is splashing paint across a canvas, allowing bright colors to bloom like flowers against the white backdrop.
Who are they?
Welcome to the sisterhood of Linda Deibler, Rosie Runkle, Linda Clark, Mary Davis, Rose Sivar, Carolind Parson, Patricia Lambert Marshall and Dharla Maiden. For the past 28 years these women have spent one week at an artists’ retreat in the woods of Pennsylvania along the Susquehanna River. Over the years they have shared the joys, woes and the accomplishments of a lifetime devoted to art. The cottage is a healing place for them and a productive space to create art. The years of camaraderie show as they chatter good-naturedly around the kitchen table, paintbrushes in hand.
But this is not just a group of friends; they are professional artists. They have attended countless workshops on painting and have created beautiful works of art sold in Africa, Europe and the U.S. Former schoolteacher and professional artist Carolind Parson was president of the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society. Artists Linda Deibler and Linda Clark have been instrumental in the creation of a gallery for the Millersburg Art Association. Artist Dharla Maiden mobilized the creation of the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, a nationally known wildlife artist’s collection in Millersburg, PA, that attracts artists from across the country for in-house workshops. Artists Rosie Runkle and Carolind Parson are exhibitors at the Frame Connection Hummelstown Art Gallery. And collage artist and painter ‘Patti’ Patricia Lambert Marshall is part of a workshop at the former Schaeffer Elementary School in Camp Hill sponsored by the Lions Foundation to commemorate the school.
They each have dedicated part of their lives to promoting art in the region, and in this pursuit they have found friendship, laughter and perspective. Their lifelong passion has been to share and create art and this one week every summer has allowed them the time, support and freedom to practice their art. Here, artist Linda Deibler says, “The superficiality of life vanishes.” What takes its place is a feeling of acceptance and peacefulness.
This sisterhood has helped support artists like Mary Davis to “Not worry about selling paintings, but to paint for the joy of painting, tackling things for a challenge [rather than a bottom line].” The ladies say, “We support individuality… We are strong-willed, independent women.”
“In my eyes there is no pinnacle,” explains Linda Deibler. “You are an artist ‘til you die.”
And in that effort to do the good but hard work that is the work of artists these ladies gather every year to share personal stories, professional accomplishments and a whole lot of time spent making art surrounded by the serene backdrop of the Susquehanna River Valley. It is a joy just to watch them work.
Time and place
For a little while we have been invited to join the ladies at their work. Mary Davis is working on a nearly finished painting of a house, penciling in the last pieces of a window frame. Rose Sivar is painting red watercolor flowers across a white sheet of paper. Linda Deibler is tearing a finished inking into separate pieces. Dharla Maiden is scraping the top of a canvas with ink and rolling out paint. Linda Clark sets her brush to the page in a kaleidoscope of colors. Patricia Lambert Marshall is peering at a photograph of a toad, trying to replicate it in a drawing on paper. Carolind Parson is splashing watercolors in an abstract painting, as Rosie Runkle pulls out a fresh sheet of watercolor paper. When they pause there is the sound of wind in the trees and birds chirping in the air. Boisterous chatter breaks out.
Another summer passes at the little cottage by the river in friendship and healing, but the time hardly seems to pass at all. At its core this group of women remains the dedicated artists they started out to be in 1986. The test of time has proven them true to form.
Alice Baldys is a student writer at University of Mary Washington and a freelance writer originally from Williamsport Pennsylvania.