Muriel Prieto has always seen art as an endeavor guided by its creator's inner spirit.
To her, there is more to a sunset than a brilliant blend of hues across a sky. A river is more than a rush of water pushing its way toward the sea. A mountain, no matter how majestic, is more than the rise and fall of the earth.
For Prieto, such things are precious glimpses of God's work, visual glories that beckon to be interpreted on canvas. But there's a caveat, she says.
"You can never truly do justice to that beauty," Prieto said from her home studio. "You can only try. To me, painting has to come from the soul."
Since retiring from teaching college English 16 years ago, the 76-year-old has devoted herself to pursuing her life's passions, which in addition to painting include playing the piano and writing poetry.
The dozens of paintings that adorn the walls of her home suggest that there have been few idle moments in recent years. In addition to numerous portraits of family members, there are landscapes and seascapes from Puerto Rico, Italy, Florida and the desert Southwest, inspired by Prieto's love of travel.
Prieto, who will be among the featured artists at the Brooksville City Hall Art Gallery's fall exhibit, surmises that her prolific output comes at least in part from her desire to make up for lost time. Her teaching career and raising a family made finding time to paint difficult.
"Painting is something you have to put all of yourself into; otherwise you're just dabbling," she said. "I had to wait for a time in my life where I could devote myself to learning proper technique."
For Prieto, who was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and earned a doctorate in education at Boston University, it meant waiting for the day she would retire from her 25-year career teaching English at the University of Puerto Rico.
In 1991, Prieto completed a painting and drawing program at North Light Art School in Puerto Rico and went on to study with several Puerto Rican painters.
After moving to Spring Hill in 2002, she began working with local art instructors Diane Becker and Carol Rockwell, and later the late Spring Hill artist Tony Caparello, whom she credits with helping her to fine-tune her work.
"I was only able to work with him a few times, but what I gained from him was invaluable," Prieto said.
A member of the Spring Hill Art League, Prieto has had works shown at the Rising Sun Cafe and Easy Street Home Decor in Brooksville and at the West Hernando/S.T. Foggia Branch Library in Spring Hill.
Her exhibit at the Brooksville City Hall Gallery will feature 17 works created over the past several years.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.