Her last name, pronounced ra-bee-ya, is Arabic for “spring.” That’s a fitting moniker, because Amber Rabie is blossoming.
Rabie, who’s all of 23-years-old, has her first solo show this September as the featured Emerging Artist at Riverviews Artspace in Lynchburg.
“I’m very excited about the solo show, but nervous, too,” said Rabie, who grew up in southern Maryland and moved to Lynchburg four years ago to attend Liberty University. “I’m afraid people will think, ‘Why is this girl showing off her art?’”
Riverviews, now in its 15th year, is a nonprofit arts organization housed in a converted warehouse in Lynchburg. It includes working studios for artists, gallery space, a movie theater, and meeting spaces.
It has a mission to “cultivate inclusivity, quality of life via the means of art.” It does this by keeping admission free or almost free to allow access to visitors from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Besides art exhibits, their programming includes underground movie screenings, a digital media lab and “Beat Burg,” a celebration of “word-centered” art forms like poetry, spoken word, and rap.
The Emerging Artists program, which Victoria Towns manages, started in 2016. It fits Riverviews’s mission of inclusivity by giving young artists, or those who want to transition into art as a second career, a chance to showcase their work. “It’s been really nice to help people out, to give people the boost of confidence that comes from having a solo show,” Towns said.
Rabie, who graduated recently with majors in studio art and graphic design, said she’s only had one other small show in the art department at Liberty. At Riverviews, she’ll be showing four—or possibly five, as she was still deciding when we spoke in mid-August—oil paintings based on photos she took while on a trip through Peru last year. She and her mom traveled from the capital to the Amazon, hiked in the Andes and visited Machu Picchu. “The paintings are portrayals of scenes from all those places,” Rabie said.
She explained that she loves using oil paint to capture the expressions of human bodies in a realistic way. The paintings in the show—some of them rendered in pigments she bought in Peru—depict Peruvian villagers living their lives: a man carries bundles of flowers on his back; farmers cultivate their land on the same terraces used during the Incan empire.
“With a camera in hand, I tried my best to absorb and learn as much as I could about Peruvian culture,” Rabie writes in her artist’s statement for the show. “I have a yearning to understand and immerse myself in other cultures, which leads me to imagine narratives for the still shots I capture on camera. I selected the photos which gave me a sense that there was some story waiting to be told.”
Rabie was so inspired by her trip and the people she met that she will be donating a portion of the proceeds of any art she sells at the show to a medical facility in Peru that was established by the Amazon Medical Project. Founded by Dr. Linnea J. Smith, an American doctor, the program partners with remote villages along the Amazon River to train locals in providing medical care for their communities.
Rabie believes that art is meant to evoke thoughts and feelings in the viewer. “Whether it just makes you go ‘huh’ or you’re really into it and you spend lots of time looking at it, it’s kind of a form of escape,” she said.
“Art is therapeutic for people, either doing it or looking at it,” Towns said. “When people come in and look at art together, it can open their minds and bring them together.”
Riverviews is committed to being that safe space where everyone—fledgling and established artists and people from all walks of life—can come together and escape into art.
Amber Rabie’s work will be on display at Riverviews Artspace for the month of September. Follow her on Instagram @amberspringcreations. Learn more about the Amazon Medical Project at amazonmedical.org.
Photography by Larry Taylor