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Helen Chilton

Born in 1946 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, artist Helen Chilton has been a resident of Charleston since the age of one. Chilton’s paintings focus on the natural world, particularly botanical subjects. After working in watercolor early in her career, Chilton made oil on canvas her primary medium, producing pieces that focus on the vegetation and flora of the garden. Over her career her artwork has gradually depicted her subjects in increasingly close focus, enlarging them to the point where the fine details and colors achieve unusual detail and vibrancy.

Chilton received her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Denison University in 1968. She pursued her education further at the University of Charleston, studying watercolor from 1976-1982, and as part of a 1998 workshop with Sondra Freckleton. Chilton has exhibited in Virginia, California, Florida, the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., and in numerous exhibitions in West Virginia. She has participated in solo, invitational and juried exhibitions, including six times in the West Virginia Juried Exhibition, and has earned awards eight times over the years. In 2006 she was named the West Virginia Woman of the Year in Arts by the West Virginia Women’s Commission.

Over Chilton’s career, her artwork has depicted plant life in increasingly close focus and perspective, enlarging her subjects to the point where small details and color gradations achieve striking precision and vibrancy. Chilton writes, “I began this directed focus on plants many years ago, getting intimately involved with every leaf and petal, every mysterious space, every shadow, every texture.” The intricate, larger than life details in her paintings frequently suggest microcosmic worlds-within-worlds. Chilton’s work is featured in numerous private and corporate collections.

Written by Christopher Chapman