Former art therapist enjoying life as a full-time artist

Virginia Erdie is reflected in the back of one of her pieces titled "Magic Chair." (Taimy Alvarez, Sun Sentinel)

The walls of Virginia Erdie's Pembroke Pines studio are filled with her abstract and surreal texturized paintings, and the floor space with her fine art furniture, a new venture. Even as the molding paste dries on her mirrored works for Studio 18's "Ribbons of Time," Erdie is reviewing sketches for future sculptures.


It's been non-stop for Erdie, 53, since going full time as an artist a little more than a year ago.


After seeing several relatives, including her father, die in their early 50s, she decided not to wait any longer to completely devote herself to her art.


"How pathetic is it when people do something they don't really like all of their lives waiting for retirement when they'll have time to do what they want, and then they die?" she asks. "The irony of it just kills my soul."




Erdie developed a passion for art while growing up on a 150-acre, semi-working West Virginia farm with no nearby neighbors, a father who worked the swing shift at the glass factory and a brother who was off doing brother things. Her mother, a portrait artist and avid sci-fi reader, encouraged her writing and drawing. Erdie's tale about life on another planet was published in a magazine, and her art earned awards in state competitions. By high school, however, Erdie had ditched art because it was "not something you would do to make a living."


Losing her father to heart failure at 19 prompted her to rethink that. "Seeing a man who seemed to be in perfect health laying in a coffin with his perfect suntan makes you live life," she says.


Ignoring her high school counselor's suggestion that she would never get into the Maryland Institute College of Art, she proceeded to do just that and, while spending two semesters as an exchange student in London, ended up rooming with an art therapist.


"I'd never heard of art therapy," she says. "He was the coolest guy and showed me how he used his psychology background with art to help people."


Erdie went on to earn her master's degree and spend eight years as an art therapist to gang members, sex offenders and eventually the criminally insane. The work was interesting, she says, but took a toll that reflected in her art, which then consisted mainly of black and charcoal drawings of surreal Dali-esque type images.