LOWELL -- Artist Virginia Peck loves the work she does now and the spiritual connection she has developed with that artwork.
The Lowell resident hasn't always been a part of Lowell's art community. After growing up in New Jersey and attending various art classes at different institutes, she studied painting at the Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts. However, she did not immediately use her painting talents.
To support her family, Peck worked as an illustrator for clients including Reebok and a Boston newspaper while learning a lot about the world of business.
After her son and daughter grew up, Peck thankfully returned to painting fine art.
"My heart was always with doing fine-art painting," Peck said while discussing her current work.
In 2005, Peck began to look for somewhere within an art community to call home.
After she was shown a loft in Lowell, which is rich in art and history, she knew it was the city she wanted to be in. Peck spent her days in her new loft painting and working. It wasn't long before her move that Peck realized what she wanted to paint.
She always has loved painting faces and produced a series called "Heads on Wood" where she used the shapes of wood pieces and acrylic paint to create realistic, individual faces during the late '90s. During yoga classes and meditation sessions, "a lightbulb went (on)" for Peck and it occurred to her that she could paint something she had a spiritual connection to -- the face of Buddha.
About a year ago, Peck bought a space at the Western Avenue Studios in Lowell where she now spends her days doing paintings of Buddha. She has painted more than 60 acrylic Buddhas with individual qualities, colors and meanings. The artist uses a method that consists of covering a canvas with an underpainting of abstract colors and then uses charcoal to draw the Buddha shape over the colors. Next, she layers over the abstracts with their complementary colors using moulding paste, giving the painting more volume. Peck uses a palette knife to go over the paints allowing the parts of the abstracts to show, giving her paints a sense of depth and history. The individualistic names of all the Buddha paintings are chosen by the feeling they portray.
"The last thing I do is name my paintings. They kind of tell me their names, I will look at the painting and a name will flow in," Peck said. One painting takes about a month to finish, which varies depending on the sizes.
Since the start of her painting career, Peck has been honored many times for her Buddha paintings. The Andover Chapel at Harvard University invited Peck to have a six-month show of her Buddhas during 2009.
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In 2011, she was also invited to be in the "100 Artists of New England" book and had her own solo shows at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis, the Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, N.H., and Plymouth State University. Her work is in more permanent displays at the Newbury Fine Arts in Boston and at yoga and health studios such as Kripalu Center in Lenox.
Western Avenue Studios has an open studio the first Saturday of every month when the public has a chance to view or purchase the work of artists, including Peck. Peck has sold many of her pieces over the years with prices varying from smaller $100 prints to $8,000 originals.
Peck has also enjoyed doing commissions for individuals where she makes a Buddha consisting of colors and a size someone specifically requests.
"Buddhas are often made of bronze or copper and there's something really beautiful and aging or flaking and it's funny how that can have so much beauty. I try to capture that with my paintings." Peck says as she explains her love for her work.