Nature-inspired watercolor paintings by Sallie Middleton provide viewers with a look into each season’s animals and fora. BRAHM’s Coffee with the Curator event on Feb. 18 will give visitors a behind-the-scenes look into Middleton’s life and work.

BLOWING ROCK — On Tuesday, Feb. 18, from 11 a.m. until noon, the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum will present a behind-the-scenes look into the art exhibition “Sallie Middleton: A Life in the Forest,” on loan from the Asheville Art Museum and courtesy of Sallie Middleton Parker and Mikell Middleton Howington. Before and after the tour, guests are invited to converse and pose questions while enjoying a complimentary beverage from Hatchet Coffee and baked goods.

With little formal training in art, Sallie Ellington Middleton (1926-2009) has long been considered one of the most gifted painters of plants and animals. She possessed a remarkable eye for detail, a skilled hand to record what she saw and a keen imagination to shape her enchanted images. Her detailed paintings required months or even years to complete.

Middleton painted with transparent watercolors, a difficult media to master. She said that for her, watercolors were easy to transport, less obtrusive in the wild and less messy than oil paints. She is quoted in “The Magical Realm of Sallie Middleton” as saying, “I am the very kind to track the oil through the house and get it on the baby, who would put it on the dog, who would transfer it to the cat — on into infinity.”

Middleton often made forays into the woods to gather plant materials for her paintings. She told a story of one such expedition where she encountered a water moccasin on her way home. She decided to imitate a tree and out-wait the snake. As darkness drew near, she realized that the snake was out-waiting her, so she decided to jump over the snake and hurry back home.

Other subjects came to her. One time she was presented with three baby rabbits whose mother had been accidentally killed. She raised them in spite of being told this was an impossible task. When it came time to release the rabbits, they refused to leave, so she took them back home and began to paint their picture.

For many years Middleton and her husband, G. Abbot Middleton Jr., lived in Charleston, S.C. After their divorce in 1968, she returned to Asheville with her daughters, Sallie and Mikell. To support herself and her family, she turned to her art. Aside from a few years living in Biltmore Forest, she spent the last rest of her life living in the same home she had grown up in, in the forests of Chunn’s Cove.

This event is free for museum members and $5 for nonmembers. BRAHM is located at 159 Ginny Stevens Lane in downtown Blowing Rock. The museum is open year round from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information, call (828) 295-9099 or visit www.blowingrockmuseum.org.

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