Portraits of Mayan Women to Showcase at Prince George Art & Frame

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Ledbetter's portraits of Mayan women are inspired by her real-life travels. (Courtesy Prince George Art and Frame)
Ledbetter’s portraits of Mayan women are inspired by her real-life travels. (Courtesy Prince George Art and Frame)

A Williamsburg art gallery is preparing to host a series of multimedia portraits of Mayan women from a renowned local artist.

Jan Ledbetter is an award-winning watercolorist, workshop instructor and teacher whose work has been shown internationally on multiple occasions. Starting Friday, her work will be shown at Prince George Art & Frame on Jamestown Road.

Ledbetter has resided in Williamsburg for the past 15 years, during which time she frequently traveled to Guatemala. It was during those trips that she came to know the Mayan women of Chichicastenango, from whom her latest show takes its name and inspiration.

Moved by the plight of these women, Ledbetter began painting them over six years ago. Since then, she has completed hundreds of multimedia portraits.

“She has great empathy for these women,” said Fred Miller, owner of Prince George Art & Frame. “They are underprivileged and face many environmental obstacles.”

Among the obstacles they face is sickness and injury resulting from constant close proximity to smoke and fire inside their huts. The plight of these women “tugged at Jan’s heartstrings,” Miller said.

Prince George Art & Frame will be showcasing about two dozen of Ledbetter’s portraits beginning Friday, and Miller anticipates visitors to the gallery will be moved by the artist’s unique approach to portraiture.

Ledbetter developed a particular technique for portraying these women, which includes applying patterned or abstract textured paper over her paintings to represent the fabric of clothing. She then varnishes or seals the entire piece, creating a final result that looks cohesive but also noticeably textured.

“Jan is a great, well-respected artist,” Miller said. “This show is an opportunity for people to recognize her value as an artist in our community.

“The Maya Women of Chichicastenango” will be on display from Sept. 11  through Oct. 17. The public is invited to an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m Friday, during which refreshments will be served.