Proceeds from St. George artist’s solo show to benefit local nonprofit that is feeding hungry children

Victoria "Torie" Denning in her studio, St. George, Utah, Aug. 25, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Torie Denning – artist, wife and stay-at-home mom — has paintings currently on display at the Red Cliffs Gallery through the end of the month, but she said she’d love to see visitors there Friday between 6-8 p.m. for the show’s second reception.

Victoria “Torie” Denning in her studio, St. George, Utah, Aug. 25, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

Denning told St. George News that all proceeds will go toward local nonprofit Neighborhood Connection’s drive to help feed local school children during the weekends.

“Many of these kids get enough to eat while they’re at school, where meals may be free,” she said, “but when they go home for the weekend, they don’t get enough to eat.”

Denning said she feels blessed to have more than she, her husband and their three children need, so she wanted to help. Her collection at Red Cliffs Gallery comprises landscapes, cows and birds, among other favorite subjects. When asked how she describes her work, she smiled.

“It’s a cross between Impressionism and folk art,” she said. “But really, I’m just playing with paint. Painting is my meditation, my therapy.”

Torie Denning pushes her 1-year-old daughter Ardis Jane in a swing, St. George, Utah, Aug. 25, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

She’s also drawn to bright colors – whether they’re accurate or not – and bold brush strokes. She’s thankful that art is in her life, she said, because it challenges her to look at the world more deeply in her search for beauty.

Though she’s crazy about Vincent Van Gogh, Gustave Klimt and Maurice de Vlaminck, Denning said she inherited painting from her grandmother, who was also a painter. When Denning was young, she said she was in awe of her grandmother’s work.

“I remember walking into her studio and seeing all of these landscapes on the walls,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is so cool.’ Knowing that I loved her work, she began buying me brushes, books and canvasses as gifts.”

However, Denning didn’t take her own work seriously until she attended an art class in junior high, where she realized she was more serious about it than her peers. Then in high school, she attended a class where the teacher was strict.

“He made us draw in silence for 90 minutes,” she said. “I was the only one who liked that class. Because of that, he took me seriously and helped me with my work.”

Denning would go on to graduate from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s in art.

Another early supporter of her artistic passion was her father, who died last September. Denning said she didn’t expect him to be supportive, as many parents resist the idea that their children may choose to pursue art in school.

Denning’s 4-year-old son, Abe, upstages younger sister Ardis Jane, St. George, Utah, Aug. 25, 2021 | Photo by David Dudley, St. George News

“But he loved my work,” she said. “And he loved cows. That’s why I painted cows for a year. A lot of them are in this show.”

While art is largely a solo pursuit, she said she’s always done it more or less surrounded by family.

She went silent for a moment, her eyes falling to the sunlit floor of her Green Valley home. Then she looked up, smiling again.

“I think he’d approve,” she said.

Friday’s reception for Denning’s show is free and open to the public. Red Cliffs Gallery is located in the St. George City Commons building at 220 N. 200 East. Normal hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday from 2-4 p.m.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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