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West Vandergrift native shares life experiences through her art

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Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011

The time machine, powered by the creativity of nationally acclaimed artist Marilyn Rea, is about to gear up at Allegheny Valley Hospital.

Stroll through the new gallery space at the Natrona Heights hospital during February, and a trip back to yesteryear awaits via the Alle-Kiski Valley native's nostalgic paintings of sleigh rides, ice skating on the pond, snowman building beside that favorite Red Flyer sled and visits to old farms and barns with Mail Pouch tobacco advertisements.

Your thoughts soon might wander to the warmth of the South Seas as ships sail past lighthouses or into a beautiful bay.

The feeling changes again in a few feet with scenes from the great Rocky Mountains, where you find yourself gazing at big-game animals, majestic eagles, cumbersome buffalo, mighty elk, standoffish moose or goats grazing in the solace of the mountain air above the timberline in the shadow of rugged peaks.

Rea, a West Vandergrift native who resides in the Slate Lick section of North Buffalo Township, has been there and done that -- she rarely paints something she hasn't seen. And after she experiences it, she loves to share her visits to 47 of the Lower 48 states via her paintings.

She will be doing that again with her month-long hospital exhibit. Although she paints in realistic style, she wants to let the viewer create his or her own story for what is seen with the mind's eye. "I want people to exercise their minds and feelings," she says.

"Moments in time pass quickly, and the images in our minds remain. Hopefully, my art brings kind thoughts and a smile. I hope my art makes someone feel a bit better," she says. "A camera has only one eye. We see with two eyes and our minds, which is the reason for the creation of paintings. I wanted many to see the beauty of our nation and perhaps see it as I did."

Rea works in a variety of mediums, but prefers acrylic because of its stability, longevity of the paint and staying power of its colors.

"I like to take subjects and scenes that we all see everyday and bring them together into a pleasing, colorful, piece of art that will stir a feeling, remembrance or something to bring joy to the viewer," she says.

Rea says she continues to be motivated by "the simple and unnoticed beauty around us."

Her vision resonates for people throughout the country, with her art being distributed by the open-edition print industry to home-decor stores, major retail chains including Wal-Mart and Kmart, and resort shops. That has fulfilled a goal, she says, to have her work available to the general public at an affordable price.

It is even found on touch lamps distributed worldwide. Several galleries have her works for sale on eBay.

Richard Brooke, president of ArtREPS of Calabasas. Calif, who once marketed her work as posters and open-edition prints, has likened her work to "that of a modern master." Unlike a lot of art today, it doesn't try "to be more important than in fact it is," he explained. Brooke praised her reliable "enjoyable, warm, feel-good" style.

One woman in Iowa liked her exotic chicken prints so much that she bought one for all 100 members of her church.

After Hurricane Katrina, the government hung some of her paintings in the emergency trailers that became temporary residences for those who lost their homes.

Rea's art is seen in the governor's office building in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and in the social room at Bethel Township fire department; at the New York International Artexpo and on scenery background for Sadecky Puppets in Tarentum.

Sometimes her work, including some new expression in this show, reflects her other creative passion as a musician. Rea is president and a founder of the Armstrong County League of Arts, based in Slate Lick, plays in a band and is a square dance caller.

At 71, she continues to be energized by new technologies, having embraced digital art as early as the 1980s. "That's what is exciting about art, trying something new," she assures. "There is so much to see and do. I will never be able to complete all of my visions or dreams. I know I won't have the time to do it, but I will do as much as I can."

Additional Information:

The art of Marilyn Rea

When: Daily through February

Where: Art in the Valley gallery, Allegheny Valley Hospital, Natrona Heights

Admission: Free

Details: 724-226-7021; and



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