Special/Signature Issues » Belle

Personalities: Painting it Bright

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At the summer arts program at Nimrod Hall in Bath County, most students set up their easels facing outward to paint the sweeping fields and the Blue Ridge mountains.

Laura Loe brings hers into the old-fashioned farm kitchen, where she can paint a counter full of ripe tomatoes and bowls drying on the drainboard.

The soul of Loe's work is in things humble. In bold colors, she depicts maids folding laundry. Bedroom nightstands. Old radiators. Still school hallways.

Her distinctive style took years to develop. After Loe graduated from Louisiana Tech University, she mostly painted ultra-realistic landscapes and portraits. None, she says, "were all that fabulous."

Then in 1995, she moved into an apartment on Sheppard Street, in the Museum District. There she began painting intimate scenes from the interior of her apartment, done a la prima -- that is, in one sitting. "It was a little diary of my life," she says.

People loved the tiny pieces, and Cudahy's Gallery showed them, galvanizing Loe's professional career.

Loe's Sheppard Street neighbor, Will Loving, became her husband in 1996. The couple now have three children: Charlie, 3, William, 5, and Sadie, 8.

Every summer, Loe directs the arts program — and paints, of course — at Nimrod Hall. In addition to her signature interior pieces, Loe paints street scenes from the Fan and Carytown, country landscapes, still lifes and portraits.

One of her pieces is familiar to many Richmonders: the portrait she painted of the Harvey family after their murder on New Year's Day 2006.

Loe knew the Harveys, though not well. She recalls seeing Kathryn each summer, "looking like the goddess of the Granite pool" in her vintage bathing suits.

The photographs that ran in the paper didn't capture the happy family Loe knew. So she painted her memory of them: Kathryn in her bathing suit, arms outstretched; little Ruby with a red ball; and Stella, always the daddy's girl, with her hand on Bryan's shoulder.

The painting, bright and sunny, speaks of hope rather than sorrow. "We recover," Loe says. "It's the way we have to be."

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