NSA honors local artist

Published 8:23 pm Saturday, January 8, 2011

Featured artist: Tidewater artist Robert Burnell has been chosen as the featured artist for the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Art Show and Sale later this month. Twenty-five years ago, the school picked him as the featured artist at its first such show.

Twenty-five years after he was the school’s featured artist in the first Annual Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Art Show and Sale, NSA is honoring the painter once again.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy held a private luncheon on Tuesday to honor J. Robert Burnell, who has been recognized as the featured artist and honorary chairman for the Annual Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Art Show and Sale for a second time.

Burnell was Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s first featured artist when the Art Show and Show began 25 years ago. He was chosen for his great talent and credibility as an artist, said Kendra Council, director of development and marketing for the school.

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“Mention his name in the area and people know Bob Burnell,” Council said, “Suffolk is full of water—what motivates him most. His work speaks to the community.”

NSA holds the Art Show and Sale annually to raise money for the school’s fine arts and endowment program. Burnell’s work, along with that of more than 150 artists, will be displayed and sold. The sale will feature flat and multidimensional work utilizing a variety of mediums including oil and acrylic paintings, pottery, glass, tiles, woodworking, furniture, jewelry, photography and birdhouses.

The show opens on Jan. 28 with a sponsors-only preview and reception. The official opening reception will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan 29. The opening reception and the show dates following are open to the public. Admission to the event and parking are free. The artists will be available to answer questions and discuss their work during the opening reception. The show will continue through Feb 6.

One of the reasons Burnell was chosen as the featured artist is that the organizing committee wanted to do something special for the 25th anniversary of the show.

“We are honored that he’s not only been in our art show once but twice,” said Tracie Thorndike, community relations coordinator.

Burnell’s work has been displayed and sold in a number of museums and galleries locally and around the nation, from Portsmouth to Texas, Florida and Washington, D.C., to name a few.

His work also appears in the collections of major corporations and museums, including the Nature Conservancy of Virginia, the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters, Bon Secours Health Systems Inc., Bank of America and more.

Burnell completed his first painting at the age of 10, but he said it never occurred to him to be a painter until he was a teen. Burnell set aside that dream aside, though, until an employer in Atlanta purchased materials for him and pressed him to paint.

He began painting full-time in 1970 and he has been painting ever since. Workboats are his favorite subject matter workboats, though Burnell claims to have painted a little bit of everything.

He has painted snow scenes, egrets, birds, old houses, the Purple Lady, and once he was even contracted to paint a woman’s memories as she described them to him.

But he always returns to his favorite subject matter of workboats.

“I think I have it in my blood somewhere,” he said, noting that he is from a family of watermen.

Burnell paints mostly from photographs of workboats that he has taken over the years. Many of his subjects have disappeared from the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information about the show, contact Mary Semler at 539-8789.