Helen Hubler is pictured posing in her studio with one of her favorite paintings. It started off as a photo that her daughter took in upstate New York.
Photo by Aila Boyd

By Aila Boyd

“Faces and Facades: A 50-year Retrospective” is the title of the show that will feature the work of Helen Hubler, a Daleville-based artist, from March 19 to April 27 at both the Bower Center for the Arts and Goose Creek Studio.

A reception will be held at the Bower Center and Goose Creek Studio, both are located in Bedford, on April 12 from 5 to 8 p.m.

Despite her deep-rooted and unabashed love for art, she didn’t always want to be an artist. Originally, Hubler planned on becoming a nurse— a career path that she’s thankful didn’t pan out.

Helen Hubler is pictured working on a recent painting titled “Mrs. Manafort.” It’s based on Kathleen Manafort as she walked with her husband, Paul, after a court hearing.
Photo by Aila Boyd

She explained that she was called into the dean’s office at the end of her junior year of college and was told that she should consider going to graduate school instead of continuing to pursue nursing.

“She intimated that the problem was my ineptness at emptying bedpans,” Hubler said.

One of her first significant forays into art occurred in high school when she was taking an art class and ended up nabbing an award.

Her passion for art was heartily kindled by her friend at the time and her friend’s mother who took her to galleries.

“I just fell in love with van Gogh,” she said, speaking of the famed Dutch Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh.

Hubler describes her paintings as being “realistic to a degree.” She tries to display the mindset and feelings of her subjects.

“I try to figure out who they are. It’s not about just getting a superficial likeness,” she said. “The more I paint, the more I get to know their feelings.”

Preferring to paint people, Hubler will occasionally paint houses.

“I like solidity,” she said. “You get that in the form of people and buildings.”

Originally, she used live models, but now prefers to work from photographs. She starts off sketching the outline of what she plans to paint on her canvas, then adds the paint later. It’s the same exact method that she learned back when she was a young art student in the 1960s.

“You can get an awful lot out of a photograph if you study it,” she said, adding that she likes photos that tell a story and aren’t “static.”

Her medium of choice is oil, which allows her the ability to achieve a certain depth of color.

Of the works that will be presented at the retrospective, Hubler said that she considers some of her earlier paintings to be her most significant works.

“They have very powerful passages in them,” she said. “They’re almost unfinished— it was like once I said what I had to say, I stopped.”

Although it’s difficult for her to say exactly how many paintings she has created over the course of her 56-year long career, Hubler estimates that it’s at least a couple hundred. There are roughly 100 of them scattered throughout various parts of her house. She explained that a lot of the paintings she creates nowadays are commissions.

According to Hubler, this will be her last big show. Just because she doesn’t plan on showing her art on such a grand scale in the future, that doesn’t mean that she won’t continue painting. She will continue to labor away on canvasses in her in-home studio day in and day out, she said.

Hubler, having been born in Chicago and raised in New York, migrated south to Botetourt County in order to get away from the stressful fishbowl that is the New York metropolitan area.

Since settling in the Roanoke Valley, Hubler has become a fixture in the local art scene. She was awarded “Best in Show” in 2003, 2016, and 2017 by the League of Roanoke Artists Showcase at the Jefferson Center in Roanoke and at the Fincastle Festival in 2007. Additionally, she received the Nell C. Williams Memorial Award at the League of Roanoke Artists Showcase in 2005 and the Leona Tremper Award of Distinction in 2004.

She studied in New York at the National Academy of Design, the Art Students League, and the School of Visual Arts.

She is also a founding member of Gallery by the James in Buchanan, where she lived before relocating to Daleville.