Parkersburg Art Center honors Rebecca Noble

PARKERSBURG – A new exhibit at the Parkersburg Art Center honors a local artist who loved the beauty of everyday life.

On Sunday, the art center opened two shows for the month of May.

One was a retrospective for Parkersburg artist Rebecca Noble who passed away in December. The other was the PAC-PACK exhibit featuring works by a number of the center’s staff, volunteers, teachers and others to commemorate the center’s 75th anniversary.

Director Abby Hayhurst said both exhibits show the variety of arts in the area.

“We are the oldest arts organization in continuous operation in the state of West Virginia,” she said. “We are celebrating our anniversary.

“We have asked all of our key volunteers, our board, our staff, our art teachers to bring us some of their work that they do in their spare time,” she said, referring to the The PAC-PACK exhibit which features the work of 24 people.

Noble was a well-known local artist with a lot of people who knew of her work through various venues. She passed away at the age of 64. She had worked in the area as a registered nurse for a number of years in addition to her painting.

“Rebecca was a very popular area artist,” Hayhurst said. “She could paint anything.

“She could paint dogs, cats, horses, pigs, ponies, children, ladies, gentlemen. She was a wonderful painter. She was too young to die and too talented to die.”

The exhibit features around 190 pieces of her work, with a number of paintings up for sale.

“It is sad to note that this is it and there won’t be anymore,” Hayhurst said. “On one hand it is sad, because we have to say goodbye to Rebecca who was such a good friend and a dear soul.

“On the other hand, it is kinda joyful because it will allow us to spread the word about her. Anyone who takes home one of her paintings will have a little piece of her. She always painted herself into everything she did, especially the joy. She was a wonderful person and it shows in her canvases. She loved everyone and everything,” Hayhurst said.

Many of Noble’s works feature people at specific moments during a day in their lives. She would often ask people for pictures highlighting the special quiet moments that she would then paint, whether it was a beloved pet, someone’s child, the elderly and so on.

“She loved children, the innocence of animals and the sweet little moments when they don’t know anyone is there, the little candid moments,” said Heather Noble, her daughter. “That is what she would look for when she would ask people for pictures of their children to paint when she wanted that little spark. She loved that.”

Once Noble decided to retire from nursing, she devoted herself full-time to painting, Heather Noble said.

“She became even better,” she said.

Hayhurst described Noble’s process as showing confidence in herself.

“She was the fastest painter alive with some of her work only taking 45 minutes or so to do,” she said. “I watched her do it.

“She was such a strong painter, she never second guessed herself. She would have a rag in one hand and a brush in the other and stare at the canvas for a long time. You could tell she was rehearsing all of the brush strokes in her head and suddenly, a flurry of work, and you would have a finished painting.”

Over 200 people attended Sunday’s opening reception for the exhibit, which will run through June 8 at the center at Eighth and Market streets in downtown Parkersburg.

Noble gave away more paintings than she sold during her lifetime which friends attributed to her generous nature. She gave her work to local organizations to raffle if they were having a fundraiser.

“I think she never believed that people were willing to pay her money to do something she loved to do,” Hayhurst said.

Heather Noble was also impressed with the turnout of people Sunday to see her mother’s work.

“I think it is amazing how many people are here,” she said. “Everyone has been so kind.

“I had a lot of fun hanging this exhibit. I think it is something my mother would have really loved. Art was everything to my mother.”

Diane Balderson, of Parkersburg, worked with Noble.

“She worked for me in the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital,” Balderson said. “She was a beautiful artist.”

Noble had done some brochure work for her at the hospital in the late 1970s.

“I just came across some of those drafts the other day and I thought about Becky,” Balderson said. “I expected people to come.

“A lot of people knew and loved her. Her work is just impeccable.”

People had been telling Waverly resident Sally Harris about Noble’s work and raving about it.

“I was told if you haven’t seen it before, you will just love it,” Harris said Sunday. “So far, they were right.

“It is a treat. It is really beautiful.”

Kathy Albright, of Parkersburg, is an art center member and comes to all of the openings. The first painting of Noble’s she saw, she thought it was a photograph.

“I have appreciated Mrs. Noble’s work for a few years,” she said. “When I heard more of her work was going to be displayed, I had to see it.

“It just makes you want to smile. It makes me want to smile.”