One year since opening, Soft Illusions still evolving

Soft Illusions Fine Art Gallery owner Diane Vaughn has more to celebrate than just the one-year anniversary of her gallery this July.

Last month, she retired from the Philadelphia School District, where she’s taught art for more than 30 years.

Her retirement clears her schedule to paint even more freely, which she describes as her daily ritual.

Touching on an introspective note in light of this new chapter in Vaughn’s life, Soft Illusions’ newest exhibition is called “Evolving” and it solely features Vaughn’s watercolor paintings from the last two months. The exhibit runs until Aug. 28. 

“Retirement’s been great. I feel liberated, like a weight had been lifted off me,” Vaughn says. “And I have somewhere to go and something to do.”

Vaughn’s paintings are like a Rorschach landscape slathered with the colors of a rainbow and offset with intricate brush strokes. Audiences often remark that they see faces and forms in her paintings, Vaughn says, similar to finding shapes in clouds.

Each painting takes an average of four or five hours for Vaughn to create.

“Even if it’s an abstraction, it has a balance, a set of ordering,” she says. “We want the paintings in the gallery space to engulf you so you feel a sense of sunshine. We like people to linger when they look around.”

And lingering visitors of Soft Illusions will usually have company with Vaughn, who prefers to paint in the gallery’s main room in front most days. She’s unperturbed by public painting, having done that in front of her students for more than 30 years.

“This past year, we’ve learned to be creative with our marketing,” says Malika Vaughn, daughter of Diane Vaughn and Soft Illusions co-owner. “We work harder to offer different events because we’re farther down on Main Street.”

Coinciding with its one-year anniversary, Soft Illusions participated in Manayunk’s Second Saturday for the first time this weekend.

The Vaughns will further their diversity of events offered at Soft Illusions with a comedy and spoken word night on July 30 at 8 p.m., featuring comedians and poets like Mike Brown and Cheyenne Sabrina, with wine tasting and free desserts for $20. 

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