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Mixed media artist Robert Villamagna poses for a photo by his piece, 'Taking Coal for a Walk' Friday at his art exhibition's opening.

Mixed media artist Robert Villamagna reconstructs new stories with old lithograph metal

BUCKHANNON – The work of a new Mountain State artist is being featured at the Colonial Theatre gallery for the next three weekends.

Wheeling, West Virginia-based mixed media artist Robert Villamagna debuted his collection of work at the Colonial Theatre Gallery with a special opening reception at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26. However, it’s not too late to peruse his work if you missed Friday’s opening. The exhibition, hosted by ART26201, will continue every Friday and Saturday from 4-8 p.m. through March 20.

As a mixed media artist, Villamagna draws on an array of materials and media when assembling his vividly colored creations.

“I use repurposed lithograph metal, which is just a fancy name for old metal that’s been printed on, and that might mean a potato chip can, or it might mean some toys or maybe old [containers of] cannabis oil or beer, or even here, ‘no trespassing’ signs,” Villamagna said at Friday’s opening. “Anything that’s been lithographed on or printed on, I use it, and I’m just attracted to the various textures and colors. I like put them together, so it’s like collage work.”

Another one of Villamagna’s pieces on display in the Colonial Theatre art gallery.

Villamagna said he was inspired to work with metal after reading “The Fine Art of the Tin Can” by Bobby Hanson.

“My wife and I were in a bookstore and she picked up this book and I’ll never forget it because we were in this Borders bookstore and on the other end of the bookstore she said, ‘hey I think you’re going to like this,’” he recalled, “and so I went over and I took a look and I was inspired because I was using different types of materials – found objects, junk, stuff like that – but not necessarily with just metal.”

“I bought this book, and he didn’t really tell you that much about exactly how to do it, but he showed different artists and what their work was,” Villamagna added.

He said his first project was a Christmas present for his wife.

“She was managing a coffee shop at the time, so I made this big cup and saucer, and she really loved it. We still have it in our kitchen,” Villamagna said. “I said, ‘I’m never making another metal piece again,’ I said, ‘it’s too hard,’” Villamagna said.

But Villamagna did it again. And again, and again.

“I didn’t know what I was doing and then over time, I tried another piece, and then next thing, I just got hooked,” he said.

ART26201 member Carrie Perry said Villamagna’s exhibition marks the fifth featured show in the gallery, and they will strive to recruit different types of artists for the community to enjoy.

“Of course, it’s totally free,” Perry said. “We were just really excited to get something different in here; we want to keep the public’s interest and always have something different. We’re going to have several local people coming up in our next two shows, and it’s just going to be great.”

She said the gallery will be working with Buckhannon youth artists and then the Buckhannon Upshur Camera Club.

“The Buckhannon Camera Club is going to be doing an exhibit during the Strawberry Festival and during the festival, we’re going to be open for extended hours, so everyone has time to see everything,” Perry said. “Each show builds on the past, and I think it’s going to be a complete success in our community.”

“It’s exactly what we need with the summer coming up and the end of the coronavirus,” she added. “Let’s all get out and enjoy something together.”

The fine art exhibition is free and open to the public. Keeping with current COVID-19 safety and social distancing protocols, ART26201 will be offering free masks at the event.

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