Artists find their talent in several different ways. Some are born creative. Some study for years to perfect their craft. Some dream of being artists for decades before finally taking up an art form.
The latter is true of Slaty Fork resident Xandria Maurer. Born in America, Maurer spent her childhood in Venezuela and Norway before returning to the states. She and her husband, Michael George, settled in Slaty Fork almost two years ago.
“I really wanted something that was beautiful,” Maurer said. “Not a city. I have lived in a big city, but I am not for the cities. I cannot see what is meant for us all to enjoy that gives us life – and that’s nature. It’s open skies. It’s mountains. It’s water. It’s the trees and watching their life cycles and what they give to us.”
When the couple found Slaty Fork, it felt to Maurer that she was meant to live there and she feels at home where she is.
“I think, personally, I may have picked the best mountains,” she said. “I love where I live. There are wonderful people and that’s been the thing. It’s as if I’ve been there my entire life. I cannot say enough about that. I’ve made the most wonderful friends in a short period of time, and I feel like we’ve been friends for my entire existence.”
Maurer is animated and enthusiastic when she talks about finding her new home, as well as when she talks about her paintings.
Maurer always thought she wanted to be a painter, but it got put off time and time again, as life had other plans for her. Then her life changed forever on February 2, 2019.
“I’m very bad at dates, but I know that because it was like, ‘okay, now you have a new direction, apparently,”’ she said.
On that date, Maurer said she wasn’t feeling well and remembers telling her husband she was going to bed to rest. When she woke up, she was in the hospital. Maurer suffered a cardiac episode and was rushed into surgery.
“I was convinced I was certainly going to die and you start to think, ‘I’ve had a good life’ and truly I’ve had a wonderful life,” she said. “Then that small naughty voice comes in and says, ‘do you regret anything?’
“But I remember, I think, ‘I always wanted to paint.’ You have a checklist as they’re wheeling you down the hallway – ‘I did this; I did this; I didn’t do that.’ I was like, ‘I am so stupid.’”
Maurer came out of surgery healthier than ever and once she felt better, the first thing she did was buy painting supplies.
“It’s not so much that I like to paint,” she said. “It’s more I need to paint. They’re small little worlds and for me, they all tell little stories. My very first paintings were oceanscapes with mountains. When I first sat down to paint, I honestly enjoyed watching the paint move on the surface more than anything.
“There was no real plan,” she continued. “I just knew I wanted to paint. I knew I wanted to put paint on canvas. I don’t know why.”
Maurer’s paintings are pastoral glimpses into nature, inspired by places she has visited. Most of her paintings are compilations of wooded areas, streams and mountains, instead of being snapshots of specific places.
“I know that at museums I am drawn to landscapes,” she said. “I always have been. I enjoy going to conservatories. I like to go outside in the forest and just listen, and sometimes the birds come and land on me. Nature, to me, is perfection. I think I do a pale attempt, but it is still something that I love and I try to capture.”
Maurer has been featured in several exhibitions and, most recently, had the first exhibition of just her work at The Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia.
“I am honored, beyond honored, humbled is definite, to have an exhibition in America’s oldest resort,” she said. “I have had my paintings in other exhibitions, but this is my first solo exhibition.”
Maurer does sell her paintings, but she says she is hesitant to make prints of them in order to sell replicas.
“Everything is original,” she said. “I do not do any prints of them. It has been suggested. I am open to the idea, but for now, it’s the idea of having something real.”
Reflecting on her past and the medical episode which led her to painting, Maurer advises that no one should put off learning or doing something new, thinking they have time later in life to do so.
“You realize that time is not always there,” she said. “If I were to say this was a negative experience that happened, yeah, it was a really horrible nightmare that still doesn’t quite seem real, but I know what it was. Look what happened on the other side. It woke me up.
“There is not always time,” she continued. “If you want to do something, just try it. You may be rubbish at it, but did you enjoy trying? That was the whole point. I’ve been so very, very happy and blessed and definitely honored.”