Fruitful

Virginia Wright-Frierson

BY Amanda Lisk

Cherries in a Blue Bowl, 16 x 20 inches, oil on canvas.
Cherries in a Blue Bowl, 16 x 20 inches, oil on canvas.

When her husband brought home a bag full of bright yellow lemons, Virginia Wright-Frierson arranged them in one of her mother’s French Quimperware bowls and brought them to her studio.

“I said, ‘I need to paint these lemons before we use them.’ I put a real strong light on them, I love strong shadows, I really wanted them to pop,” she says.

Wright-Frierson is a celebrated Wilmington artist and award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books. Her painting of lemons entitled French Bowl with Lemons is part of a series of fruits and vegetables and produce markets Wright-Frierson says is ongoing.

“It’s something I’ve always gone back to over the years,” she says.

Wilmington artist Virginia Wright-Frierson with a work-in-progress. Photo by Allison Potter

Wright-Frierson studied still life in college at UNC-Greensboro, which is the painting of commonplace, inanimate objects. She furthered the technique while at The Students Art League of New York City and in Cortona, Italy.

“I love working with the different shapes and colors. It’s something that’s just always there,” she says as she flips to a watercolor painting in her studio of an English breakfast she painted in 1991.

French Bowl of Lemons, an oil on canvas, will be on display at the new location of Art in Bloom Gallery opening at Mayfaire Town Center in August 2022.

French Bowl with Lemons, 36 x 36 inches, oil on canvas.

“Virginia Wright-Frierson’s work is so luminous and original. I feel like I could get a lemon out of the painting and use it in my kitchen,” says Art in Bloom owner Amy Grant. “Each time she creates something new, it provides a lot of joy to people who see her art. She’s always experimenting and evolving as an artist.”

Rainier cherries placed in another one of her mother’s French bowls is called Cherries in a Blue Bowl. Wright-Frierson’s 6-by-12 foot canvas of an Italian market will welcome guests to the Mayfaire opening of Art in Bloom.

Paintings of Virginia Wright-Frierson’s travels hang in her Wilmington studio. Photo by Allison Potter
Virginia Wright-Frierson paints water lilies in her studio. Photo by Allison Potter

In addition to oil and watercolor paintings and literature and illustration, Wright-Frierson is well known for being a large-scale public installation artist with such notable projects as the Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens, a tribute to folk artist Minnie Evans made almost entirely of recycled glass bottles, and murals for the downtown Wilmington library and Columbine High School. She was also commissioned to do a composite of scenes for the Savannah College of Art and Design commemorating September 11th.  

The walls of Wright-Frierson’s home in downtown Wilmington, built in 1912, are adorned with her artwork such as a large portrait of her son and daughter when they were kids. The front sitting room is called the Arizona room because it features only the art she did while living in Arizona as a young newlywed. Wright-Frierson pulls out boxes of paintbrushes and paint for her granddaughters, who will be visiting soon from Seattle. They were influential in one of her most favorite shows at the Cameron Art Museum. Road Trip featured 140 small paintings of scenes gathered from the many journeys across country to visit the grandchildren. One is of overpasses in California, another is of Zion National Park in Utah. Another fun series is called Lived in Bodies, celebrating women over 65.

Market Day in Orvieto, Italy, 72 x 90 inches, oil on canvas.
Coming Storm, 16 x 20 inches, oil on canvas.

“Art is essential, maybe now more than ever,” Wright-Frierson says. “Art can help to heal and inspire. So many people I know have now retired from their careers, I hope to keep creating as long as I live. There are so many needs and ideas and such beauty in this world.”







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