Life in Our Foothills – January 2024 – Libby Skamfer Explores Life Through Art

Published 12:43 pm Friday, January 5, 2024

Since arriving to the Foothills from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Libby Skamfer has quickly made a name for herself on the local art scene thanks to her lifetime of artistic influences that can be felt when viewing her abstract acrylic paintings. 

Skamfer spent most of her artistic career as a European-trained master goldsmith, working for herself as a designer, creator and salesperson while living in Chicago. After twenty-five years of creating jewelry, Skamfer left, saying, “It is a physically demanding field, and I knew it was time to leave. I did my best work for numerous wonderful clients and companies and decided to move on to something new.”

Goldsmithing and painting differed from the path Skamfer originally planned when she enrolled at the University of Colorado. She intended to major in calculus but decided to try to change her major upon discovering the art department. However, the university would not allow her to change due to a lack of a current portfolio. So Skamfer had a tough talk with her father, dropped out and decided to take an adventure traveling throughout Europe. 

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An accident while in Italy led to her spending more time in Europe to recover, eventually attending an Italian school to learn the ancient art of goldsmithing despite not speaking Italian. She decided to leave the school on an invitation from a master in the field to begin an apprenticeship, and after five years, she returned to the U.S. to start her career.

After leaving her two-decade-plus career in Chicago, Skamfer made her way to Santa Fe, one of the top cities in the country for art lovers, but had yet to begin painting. She was working with horses and serving as the president of a non-profit. 

In 2015, Skamfer found her way to Tryon on a suggestion from a friend who was highly complimentary of the area. She moved into the woods not far from the Pacolet River in an updated chestnut log cabin that was built in 1795 and moved to the property during the building of US Route 74.

In 2017, Skamfer began painting as a way to process her emotions after the loss of a loved one.

A year later, she signed up for an art class, a 12-week graduate course, which she credits for giving her a strong base that led to her improving quickly. After experimenting with different types of canvases and paints, she found she preferred acrylic paint because of its drying speed on paper and then gluing the pieces to wood canvases in a collage style.

Skamfer is known for her use of color, designs and her evolving style. She uses a wide variety of tools and paper to create her paintings, including everything and anything that catches her attention, from old credit cards to a floor sander, to create a variety of textures and layers in her work. Her work is mainly acrylic-based, but she often uses crayons, oil pastels or whatever is at hand to bring out the magic by providing flourishes of color and texture.

“No work is planned in advance,” Skamfer says. “A painting often starts with deciding which color I want to work with that day. Then I use various tools like the sander to bring forward the magic that might be hidden under the layers of paper.”

She is unafraid to take advantage of the happy accidents that occur while painting, such as excess paint that might drip down the canvas. Using paper allows her to create with scraps of old newspapers, paper bags and even family diaries. Skamfer frequently uses her aunt and uncle’s diaries written by them over years of international travel in the first half of the 20th century when they split time between ranching in New Mexico for half the year and traveling the other half.

“I get bored fast and work fast,” Skamfer says. “I’m fueled by my curiosity about the way things will turn out using different processes and exploring different ways to create layers and texture. I use paper as an initial layer to ultimately leave subtle variations in lines and textures visible in the finished painting.”

Skamfer’s work contains the elements of various art styles, from collage to abstract and even found-object art. Her studio is clean, quiet and well-stocked with new creation methods. The studio is also surrounded by a gorgeous view of the mountains that fuels her artistic output.

“I create for my satisfaction, for my own heart and soul. I need tranquility and topography to create, and my soul truly connects to the hills and mountains of the foothills. I’m not afraid to take risks to create magic on the canvas,” she adds.

Some of Libby’s favorite places in the area are the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pearson Falls, Greenville and Asheville, along with TIEC, where she can share her love for horses with others. 

“There is no place like this area, in my opinion. I love being surrounded by wide-open spaces and the many horse farms,” Skamfer says.

Skamfer’s paintings are currently on display at the Wood Berry Gallery in Saluda and singulart.com. You can learn more about her and her current projects on her website, libbyskamfer.com, and through her social media accounts.