It took 13 years, but Paula Montgomery finally made her mark.
Upon entering Pine Knoll, the independent living community at St. Joseph of the Pines, the eye is immediately drawn to an acrylic painting of the structure in all its massive glory.
The work is that of Paula Montgomery, an artist from Pinewild, who was commissioned in 2006 to create the painting, thereby making her “mark,” an art term describing lines, patterns, and textures used — an effort she achieved par excellence.
What’s missing is another kind of mark, the artist’s signature. That was recently rectified when Montgomery finally appended her signature to the work during a resident social.
“The work complements the English origins of architecture, which are of a Jacobean Tudor style and not an easy task to capture,” says Melissa Watford, director of wellness and resident services. Montgomery agrees.
“Oh, those windows...all those windows took a lot of time,” she says with a laugh.
The magic of Trompe-l'œil was not created with smoke and mirrors, but painted with imagination as is evident in the Pine Knoll five-by-seven foot painting, “Splendor in the Pines,” which took Montgomery six months to complete.
It garners its fair share of adoration,” says Steve Phillips, director of independent living, adding that the most asked question has been the name of the artist.
Subtly igniting the lobby, Montgomery’s work captures the magnificence of the building as well as the essence of Southern Pines. It's also captured the imagination of visitors as well as those who reside within her walls.
It’s not only a representation of where we live, but where we have developed strong, caring friendships," says Donny Griffin, who has lived at Pine Knoll four years.
Village Design, who created the interior design of Pine Knoll, and Debra Rhodes Smith, owner of Debra Rhodes Fine Art Services, commissioned Montgomery to execute their vision of the 1920s romanticized genre.
“I thought it important to include key elements of our area, a sort of ‘Great Gatsby’ meets Southern Pines,” says Smith, adding that in selecting an artist, Montgomery immediately came to mind.
After retiring from government service in the 1990s, Montgomery successfully springboarded a second career as an artist. She began painting at the age of nine to become an award-winning artist during retirement.
Montgomery, who lives with her husband, Bill in Pinewild, specializes in originals done in acrylic, mixed media (acrylic and paper), oil, or cold wax oil.
“I felt she was totally in her realm to successfully execute the vision,” says Smith. “I appreciated the way she works with acrylics, building up color and allowing the under-painting to be very much apparent. Most artists can do this only with oil.”
In 2014 however, the direction of Montgomery’s work was to change forever. She created “Fried Egg Bouquet,” which won Best in Show at the Campbell House Galleries’ Fine Arts Festival that year. From then on she was inspired to create unique interpretations of the floral genre.
Last winter, she exhibited 36 paintings at the Campbell House Galleries. Like the creator herself, lively, effervescent color rhythmically pulsates throughout her works. Beginning each composition with a particular hue or design, she then lets her materials and concept guide her process as she produces unique and texturized canvases.
Unwilling to limit herself to traditional materials alone, Montgomery embraces mixed media techniques and materials in order to accumulate the abstract quality of her works. Thus the paintings hover gracefully between abstraction and representation. Elegant and independent, these paintings exude a sense of peace and joy.
According to June Metro, who has lived at Pine Knoll since it opened, Montgomery’s work of Pine Knoll is an icon.
”It emits a warm, welcoming feeling when you enter this historic building,” she says. “It just wouldn’t be Pine Knoll without it.”
Pine Knoll itself is a bit of an icon. Nestled on 19 acres in Southern Pines, the nationally accredited life plan community offers a quality, relaxed lifestyle for retirees.
Surrounded by the serene ambiance of the Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, Pine Knoll features a remarkable campus reflective of the historic charm and resort qualities of Southern Pines and nearby Pinehurst. Its history is as interesting and varied as the painting itself.
Pine Knoll originally opened in 1928 as the Pine Needles Inn and Golf Course. During World War II, it served as a technical training command center, St. Joseph Hospital, a long term skilled nursing center operated by St. Joseph of the Pines.
St. Joseph of the Pines has been dedicated to the legacy of the Sisters of Providence for 70 years.
While the painting is reflection of the community in a 1920s-era depiction, St. Joseph of the Pines has grown and prospered.
Today SJP offers a full continuum of retirement housing, health care and community-based services for older adults. Its two main campuses are Pine Knoll and Belle Meade, but it also operates affordable housing and health services for seniors in Aberdeen, Robbins and Carthage, and its community operations extend to Cumberland, Lee, and Robeson counties. The company which employs more than 700 people, is a Trinity Senior Living Community which continues the legacy of the Sisters of Providence.
After Montgomery completed the Pine Knoll painting in December 2006, it was hung in the lobby where it has remained.
“If my work can bring a moment of happiness to the viewer, then I feel I’ve accomplished something worthwhile,” she says. “I am always looking for that inner expression to make its presence felt in my work.”
Historical buildings, pet portraits, and floral triptychs are just some of the commissions that Montgomery has painted for clients throughout the United States. Her latest piece, “Think Red,” was donated to the Think Pink charity golf tournament for the Pinewild Ladies Golf Association, held in June 2018. This work held special meaning for Montgomery, herself a breast cancer survivor.
For more about Montgomery’s work visit https://www.paulamontgomeryart.com/