The paintings of Ardith Fell will be showcased at Gallery 1001 in Winfield during the month of November, along with the sculptures and ceramics of her son, Mike Fell. The last time both artists shared a show was forty years ago, during their senior year as art students at Southwestern College.
Ardith Fell started college as a young woman at Kansas State University where she studied home economics with a specialty in art. After two years, she left school to raise a family and returned to her studies at Southwestern College when her children were mostly grown. During the years away from school she took up painting seriously and passed along her love of the arts to children Mike, Tom, and Sheryl. Ardith was widely recognized in Kansas as a portrait painter and held several shows in the area.
She specialized in portraits of native Americans, as well as scenes from the American southwest, and participated in art shows with the Wichita Area Artists Guild at Century II, and at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center in Iola, where she had a one-man show of Indian paintings. Raised in the Kansas City area, she had lived in various rural locations during her adult life, arriving in Cowley County in 1969. Ardith Fell was active in the arts wherever she went, and at one point served as president of the Arkansas City Arts Council.
She returned to her college study in the mid-1970’s at Southwestern College where her oldest child, Mike, was a junior with a double major of art and biology. At the time of their joint senior art show she said, “I haven’t changed my style much since returning to art study at Southwestern. I’m still a realist, but I’ve loosened up. I see things better. At Southwestern, I’ve been exposed to more contemporary art than ever before, and I guess I’ve incorporated that with my realism.” Classes at Southwestern College allowed her a chance to experiment in art forms she had never tried before.
Mike Fell, charter member of the Gallery 1001 community of artists, grew up with his mother’s artistic influence. “Watching her work on drawings and paintings and being asked to critique her work, I developed an appreciation for detail,” Fell said.
His work blends a love of nature and natural forms with his reverence for life and its multiple expressions. From simple abstract forms whose flowing shapes and contrasting textures invite a person to touch, to the intricate details of the human face, Mike Fell’s works combine reality and imagination in a manner which invites the viewer to stop and participate in the experience.
“I like working with my hands—to feel what I am doing,” Fell said. In sculpture and ceramics, he can feel form taking shape as he works. He enjoys re-purposing “found objects”, such as pieces of old farm equipment or bicycles.
Ardith taught art in the Winfield public schools for several years. Tragically, she died of injuries sustained in an auto accident in October 1982.
Mike taught art and science in the Winfield public schools from 1978 until 2005, when he accepted a position as art instructor at Cowley College. He retired from Cowley in 2005 to pursue his own art more fully, but continues to work with evening ceramics and stained glass classes at Southwestern College. In 2012, he and wife Ann purchased the historic building at 1001 Main. Mike was instrumental in remodeling the building into Gallery 1001 and was one of its charter members.
“The last time I had a joint show with my mother Ardith was forty years ago. It was our senior art show at Southwestern College. It is fitting that now I celebrate a gift that she gave to others, the gift of art, with another joint show on the 35th anniversary of her death.”
Area residents remember Ardith’s warm, caring spirit and her enthusiasm for art and music. Many have her paintings in their homes. Some were fortunate to have her as an art teacher in the Winfield Middle School or for an evening class through Winfield Arts and Humanities. “She genuinely loved people, and pursued portrait painting as her passion,” son Mike recalled.
Ardith Fell was an accomplished musician in both piano and guitar. To honor her love of classical guitar, Tom Hoeffgen will provide guitar music at the opening reception Friday, Nov 4 from 5:30 until 7:00 pm. Both Mike Fell and his mother Ardith will be featured artists at Gallery 1001 during the month of November, a month they both shared as their birth months. Ardith’s art is featured as part of the gallery’s heritage art display this year. Some of her work from the 70’s and 80’s will be offered for sale to those who remember her fondly. All are welcome to stop by during the reception, or during November open hours on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10:00 to 4:00.