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Betty Lou's Got the Blues at Hagerstown art gallery

April 10, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

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Betty Lou Magoun's life's work includes paintings and pen and ink works of geometrics, funky florals and women - lots of women.

She says there's no political or feminist agenda behind her images of women.

"I think women are so much more interesting than men," said Magoun, who lives in Akron, Ohio. "When it comes to drawing them, I just do them better."

More than 50 pieces of Magoun's art will be on display at Benjamin Art Gallery in Hagerstown from Friday, April 11, through Tuesday, April 29, said Magoun's niece, Karen Sornson of Hancock.


A meet-the-artist reception will be held Friday, April 11, with jazz, blues and rock music performed by Prophets of the Abstract Truth. The band consists of Carl Disque on saxophone, Arnie Helmick on bass, Chuck Banks on guitar and Bob Courter on guitar and percussion.

Works on display include at least two pieces showing a canvas-relief technique Magoun explored earlier in her career. She drew or painted an image on the canvas, then fastened a second canvas over the first and cut the outer canvas so the edges curl back, revealing the image underneath.

With "Under Pressure," Magoun made one cut down the middle of the second canvas so the canvas curled back, revealing a distressed face.

Magoun recalls being thrilled when she exhibited works with this technique at the Cleveland Museum of Art in the early 1980s that impressed then-museum director Sherman Lee.

From 1949 to 1951, Magoun studied commercial art in New York City, before becoming an illustrator for department stores in Charleston, W.Va.

"Then I decided that I wanted to move onto fine art. I wasn't satisfied with just being an illustrator. I wanted to go into a deeper type of art, a little more freedom and a little more complicated," Magoun said.

During the 1970s, her preferred method was pen and ink, of which several examples will be in the exhibit.

In the 1980s, she became more interested with effects of paints such as gouache (opaque watercolor) and with ink as well as canvas reliefs.

Sornson said she remembers her aunt staying up all night to paint.

"My uncle would say, 'I never knew what I would wake up to,'" she said.

Those all-nighters are a thing of the past for Magoun, who is 78 and had a stroke about five years ago that has slowed her down.

"I can't keep up the same pace, but I keep the hand in (play) because I don't want to lose the touch," Magoun said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Betty Lou's Got the Blues art show

WHEN: Opens Friday, April 11, with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. during which patrons can meet the artist. Exhibit will be up through Tuesday, April 29. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

WHERE: Benjamin Art Gallery, 1303 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown

COST: Free admission.

MORE: For more information, call the gallery at 301-797-4775 or go to

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