Trails, rivers, and pathways all inspired artist Matt Gentry’s upcoming watercolor display at the Montgomery Museum of Art and History, which opens on Sept. 8 with a meet-the-artist reception from 5 to 7 p.m.
The museum is located at 4 East Main St. in downtown Christiansburg.
Visitors to the museum and the exhibit can view more than two dozen paintings on display through October.
A Blacksburg native. Gentry began the leg of what he calls his “home-grown journey” during the pandemic, sketching and painting watercolors outdoors along the New River.
After that, Gentry and his dog, Toby, could be found immersed in the scenery at various locations on The Huckleberry Trail. Despite changing weather and light conditions, bugs and other distractions, Gentry enjoyed the challenge and immediacy of painting in nature. Typically he develops his composition in pencil, then applies watercolor and sometimes ink. He has found the blend of control and fluidity of the media interesting and exciting, as he can never quite predict the outcome.
A Roanoke Times photojournalist, Gentry has been a visual communicator for 40 years, and his sketching experience goes back to high school where he was a cartoonist for his Blacksburg High School newspaper, the Tattle Tale. He credits comic book illustrations as his earliest inspiration to sketch.
Gentry hiked the Appalachian Trail for three decades, completing the adventure in 2015. His trail name, Sharpie, came from the marker sketches he did along the way to document his journey. Since that time he has amassed many visual diaries, filling sketchbooks with colorful images and travel notes.
The affection he feels for the New River Valley is evident in his work, which juxtapositions accurate details with carefree, colorful strokes.
Gentry considers his paintings to be a natural extension of his photography, both being avenues to recording and understanding the world around him. He joined the Blacksburg Regional Art Association five years ago and says the camaraderie with others in the group has fostered his artistic growth.
“The encouragement and support I’ve received has been invaluable,” said Gentry. “It’s all about community. Art displayed in public spaces demonstrates you care about your community.”
The Huckleberry Trail has been important to his family, and proceeds of the sales of his original
watercolors will benefit the Friends of the Huckleberry Trail, a 30-year-old organization that works to maintain, improve, and expand the trail.