Animal House, Setauket, L.I., N.Y, 1970 by Patricia Windrow

From the time I arrived in Front Royal, Virginia from Brooklyn, New York early in 2002, Patricia Windrow’s artwork was on my radar precisely because she painted so many large-scale public murals around town. As the newly hired exhibitions coordinator at the Blue Ridge Arts Council I made it a point walk down Main Street to her gallery and introduce myself.  You see she was not a member of the Arts Council and naturally I wanted to know why. Stepping inside Windrows Gallery at 401 Main Street was an experience like no other.  The smell of turpentine and oil paint has always been pleasing to me, but my eyes were overwhelmed by a visual riot. It was difficult to know where to look because canvases were not only hung on every available inch of wall space, but many were also leaning two and three deep along the perimeter of the walls.  Light streamed in from the big picture window and there standing near an easel was Patricia Windrow in a paint-splattered shirt with multiple brushes clutched in the gnarled fingers of her right hand. Although larger-than-life, she was petite in stature.   Even with loose strands of salt and pepper hair circling her face, and a smudge of paint across her forehead she was still very beautiful at seventy-something. I said hello and made my pitch for the Blue Ridge Arts Council, and rapid fire with bright blue eyes flashing Patricia told me in no uncertain terms that although she’d been in town a number of years she still felt the outsider.  With that bit of business out of the way she was extremely gracious and invited me to have look around the studio, which I did that day and many days for years after.

On one of these visits I took out a sketchpad and asked Patricia if I could draw her while she painted at her easel.  Imagine how shocked I was when she turned to me and said that she would paint me while I sketched her!  We sat together a few feet apart and in about 20 minutes Patricia handed me a small round portrait and said,  “Here Vicki this is for you”. It took me another ten minutes to finish my sketch, and when I handed it to her she could not have been kinder even though the masterpiece she handed me was no fair exchange for my amateur effort.

Patricia Windrow was so much more than a gifted artist; she was deeply committed to social causes and was always very generous with her time and talent. With my prodding she eventually did get more involved with our local arts organization, and I am proud to say that I organized her first one-woman show at the Blue Ridge Arts Council.

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