Glance in the window of the Mispillion Art Gallery on Walnut Street and you'll see that the walls are teeming with a colorful display of artwork. The pieces are varied and just as you would expect, there are watercolors, oils, acrylics and several mediums that only an artist would recognize.
The difference here is that every single piece in the gallery was done by one person: Julie Baxendell.
Baxendell was an artist from birth. Perhaps no one was surprised, though, given her lineage. Her father, also considered a fine artist, actually worked as an art director for the Saturday Evening Post.
According to Mary Ann Benyo, Baxendell's partner for "the better part of 25-years," one story goes that while in elementary school, her father entered one of her pieces in a show for adults.
"He entered one of her still lifes in a show in Philadelphia where, according to an article in Art Scene, 'they thought it was a primitive and put in with the adults' works,' Benyo said. "No one knew she was just eight."
She went on to get a degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and pursued a career in graphic design.
"She finally returned to fine art in 1996 at the age of 62," Benyo said.
Along the way, she and Benyo also created an adventurous life together, running a bed and breakfast in Milton and traveling often before selling the business and settling down in a cottage at Prime Hook Beach in 2000, allowing Baxendell, finally, to paint every day.
Creating artwork post-retirement might sound like a hobby or just something to do but, for Baxendell, it was so much more.
"She immersed herself for hours at a time, lost in the play of light and reflection, color, shape and form," Benyo said. "Making up for lost time, she was quite prolific, creating some 300 numbered works, from the time we started numbering them, and perhaps another hundred before that."
Baxendell's work was popular and like many artists, she was charitable, often donating pieces to organizations. In 2006, the Tunnel Cancer Center in Lewes received one of her large paintings for the lobby of their new facility. They offered her and Benyo a private tour and, though quite impressed with what she saw and learned that day, she told the tour guide that she hoped to never have to see the inside of the building ever again.
It was just a few months later that Baxendell was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Page 2 of 2 - "She enjoyed three more years, painting right up until the last few months with confidence, calmness, courage and grace," Benyo said.
Now, it's been another three years since Baxendell's death and Benyo, who lives in Millsboro now, is finally ready to share her long-time partner and her work again.
"It took me a good year and some," Benyo said. "I wasn't ready. I wanted to keep everything,"
Sharing Baxendell's work with a show, sale and silent auction also allows Benyo to honor her partner in a way that Baxendell would be proud of.
"My whole point in having this show now is that it should not be locked in a storage shed. Julie painted because she loved to paint. She wanted people to see her work and to have it and to enjoy it," Benyo said. "So, it's time now. I'm ready to let go. "
When asked what she hopes people take away from the show, Benyo didn't speak of themes or legacy as might be expected.
"I am hoping people take away all of the art. Seriously," Benyo said. "I want people to enjoy it on their walls. I am not taking it back to a storage shed."