Susan Hargrove has returned to her hometown of Ashland to show vivid paintings of women, crows and ravens.

Susan Hargrove remembers her childhood in Ashland, when she lived in the Mark Antony Hotel downtown and learned to dive at the Twin Plunges pool complex.

Her father worked in maintenance and security for the towering hotel, which is now named the Ashland Springs Hotel. As it does now, the hotel had a restaurant in the building.

"I have such good memories," Hargrove said. "We used to go down in the middle of the night and make milkshakes and eat ice cream. It was great when you were a kid."

The Twin Plunges closed in the late 1970s, and Hargrove moved away to California in 1980.

She is visiting Ashland this month while an exhibit of her paintings is on display at Hanson Howard Gallery downtown through July 31.

"It's a dream come true," Hargrove said, noting she has long admired the taste of gallery owner, Judy Howard. "It's my home town. I feel like I've come full circle."

Her vivid paintings feature crows and ravens, often pictured with women on lush backgrounds of red and yellow.

Hargrove said she is intrigued by the mystery of the birds, which have long been featured in myths, legends, folklore and art.

Crows and ravens also have a playful, mischievous side.

"They play tricks on each other. They know people and can recognize your face," she said. "They'll steal your laundry."

In her paintings, Hargrove often depicts women interacting with the crows.

The fanciful painting "Butterflies and Crows, Big Sis and Little Sis" features a women dressed in a harlequin costume, balancing on a ball while holding the leash of her pet crow, which has a butterfly perched on its head.

Hargrove said crows and ravens are not so different from people.

"We think we're so disconnected with nature and animals, but we have so many similarities with crows and ravens. Like us, they're connected with each other and form groups with each other. They're similar to human beings," she said. "I want to show how similar we are."

Hargrove said 20 percent of proceeds from her art sales will go to her grandson Sebastian Sharpe's Cystic Fibrosis Project, which helps educate people with cystic fibrosis and their families about the benefits of exercise. Sharpe, 25, has cystic fibrosis and is an avid basketball player.

Hanson Howard Gallery, 89 Oak St., is open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 541-488-2562 or visit www.hansonhowardgallery.com.

Photos of Susan Hargrove's artwork appear on A6.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.