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Artful Dimensions remembers Elizabeth Woodford with retrospective exhibit
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Artful Dimensions remembers Elizabeth Woodford with retrospective exhibit

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This Friday, Artful Dimensions will host just the kind of First Friday event Elizabeth Woodford would have loved.

All her friends will be there. And with pandemic restrictions lifted, the Fredericksburg gallery will once again be offering food for patrons. And her work will be displayed. Almost a hundred of her carefully crafted pieces will be featured in the show “Expressions of Elizabeth: A Retrospective.”

The only thing missing will be Elizabeth.

Woodford passed away on Oct. 6, 2020, after fighting pancreatic cancer. Her art is being shown now through June 27, and the community is invited to the opening on First Friday, June 4. Her finished work will be displayed in the main gallery area and partially finished and prepared fabrics will be for sale in her studio.

She is known locally for her mastery of fiber work and was inspired by her garden and her childhood home in Cape Cod. According to her friends and fellow artists at Artful Dimensions, her art is “diverse as it is colorful, and it represents the joy and love she had for nature.”

And visitors will see her waves of interest, from eco-dyed and sun-printed fabrics, embroidery, and her time-consuming bead work, said gallery president and co-founder Christine Lush–Rodriguez.

There will also be a silent auction of her private collection at the event. Each of the pieces up for auction are bright, textured and full of color. Sales of her work and collection will be split between the family and gallery, per her wishes.

Her daughter Rebecca Woodford said, “My mom was always an artist.”

She created since childhood and taught for many years, as well.

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In her artist statement, Woodford said she is “constantly inspired by the wonders of our natural world… [and as] an avid organic gardener I use many of my plant materials as elements and components in my artistic endeavors.”

She was prolific. Woodford had experience in different media, working in porcelain for many years before moving to fine jewelry and fiber work. Lately, she repurposed used textiles, and designed fabric with eco printing, sun printing and hand-dye techniques, and integrated found objects and bead work wherever she could. A piece of fabric might be patterned with natural images she laid out by the sun, then she would sew in intricate beadwork to make a tapestry look like a coastal tidepool.

She was a molecular biologist before she got married and decided to pursue art full time and stay home with her children. That scientific background shows in her techniques.

Some of Rebecca’s earliest memories are of her mother with her workshop and kiln for porcelain in Oklahoma. Her father, Thomas Woodford, was a member of the armed forces and the family moved to Fredericksburg in 2006 and almost immediately her mother got involved with the local art community. She was also always a gardener, and roses and daffodils grew everywhere they lived.

“She always had time for us,” she said, and her mother passed on her artistic skill to them. Rebecca does needlework on felt, and her brother Matthew paints. “My mom would take all the love in her heart and pour into her art for others to enjoy.”

Lush–Rodriguez hung her work with gallery members this week. Woodford was her best friend in the gallery, and they had side-by-side studios. Lush–Rodriguez said she will miss talking over the wall with Elizabeth. Woodford joined the gallery shortly after it opened in 2011. And since then, she has been integral to the gallery. She taught classes, led workshops and hosted visiting artists at her house.

She gave her unused art supplies to the gallery, and asked that they be given to artists, students and anyone who needed unused beads, dyes and fabric. Lush–Rodriguez said it was classic Elizabeth: giving.

Lush–Rodriguez said she “spread love everywhere she went.” That included the students in her classes, which she kept small to ensure each person had special attention, and her friends and neighbors who she would often garden for or otherwise lend a helping hand. And through this show, she’s bringing people together once again.

“The pandemic was hard,” Rebecca said. “She went through chemo during it. And she slowly lost feeling in her fingertips.”

For a master of fabric work like she was, that was difficult. She was creating until August and was further inspired by a lengthy family vacation, one final time, to Cape Cod.

It’s a special week for her retrospective to open. Her birthday was this week. She would have been 62. Rebecca hopes the show will embody a saying she often embroidered in her work: “Scatter joy.”

Lindley Estes contributes to The Free Lance-Star.

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