Artist Hillary Werth is the best athlete in her family. Just ask her brother, Jayson.

The best athlete in the Werth family isn't hitting home runs or playing right field at Nationals Park.

She’s painting.

Meet Hillary Werth, Jayson Werth’s younger sister, who is often reminded by her brother that she's the real family talent. An Illinois state champion hurdler in high school, Hillary received a full scholarship from UCLA to be a heptathlete, and she spent a year with the U.S. National Bobsled Team at the urging of her brother and her sister, Hannah, a professional volleyball player in Puerto Rico.

Hillary Werth stands in front of a mural she painted on the Bagnell Dam Strip in Lake Ozark, Mo. (Travis Duncan)
Hillary Werth stands in front of a mural she painted on the Bagnell Dam Strip in Lake Ozark, Mo. (Travis Duncan)

While Jayson and the Nats host the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend, Hillary will make her art gallery debut in a group show at Randall Scott Projects on H Street. We asked her about her vibrant paintings, the Werth family genes and whether her brother is secretly harboring an artistic side.

You’re an athlete and an artist. Do you think that’s unusual?

It’s not to me, because it’s what I’ve always known. Sports have always paved the way for me and art has always been my passion. You look at anybody who has a normal 9-to-5 job, and they have hobbies on the side. Everyone has something different to keep them going.

Does your family talent have something to do with the way you were raised?

Well, my parents said you’re too talented not to get a scholarship. They wouldn’t pay for my college, so I had to figure it out. That instilled a work ethic in us that translates into my art. Every day for past year or so, I’ve been working. In my studio in the heat of summer or in 20 degree weather, working every day. If you make excuses, you’re not going to get anywhere.

Talking about your childhood of course brings us to talking about Jayson. What was he like as a kid?

He was a good big brother. He always picked on me. He’d try to stuff me in his baseball bag. We had a batting cage in our backyard -- because we couldn’t buy a house unless permits showed we could build a batting cage for Jayson -- and he would tell me he would pay me to pick up all the balls. So I would get one of those Lowe's painter’s buckets, put the balls in and dump them into the machine. I never got a dime.

Geesh, is he going to pay up soon?

No, no, he’s helped me out in several ways. He helped me with paying for grad school and with my head treatments after I was injured in a bobsledding crash.

It was him who convinced you to try bobsledding in the first place?

I had graduated from college and wanted to be done with sports. He put it like, “Well I just won a World Series, your sister was just named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, so what are you doing?” He said I was the best athlete in the family and I was wasting my athletic ability. My mom and my sister too, they all texted me at once. So I went to try bobsledding, and I just loved it and had a chance to be on the national team. Then when I was injured due to a concussion, doctors recommended I stop. I moved to Lake Ozark, Missouri, which allowed me to focus on my art.

By the way, is Jayson hiding any artistic talents?

Not that I know of. He was never into art. He is very supportive of my career, but for him in high school it was all baseball, baseball, baseball.

Would you ever switch roles with him?

Hell no. I’ll take my simple little life. There’s a lot of things he has to go through that people don’t see, like being away from his family and my sister-in-law. I don’t get to see him that much either, because his job is so demanding. We’re both doing what we’re meant to do in life.

What should people expect at your show this weekend?

I did two pieces for the show:

"Snapbacks"

(Hillary Werth)
(Hillary Werth)

and "Let Go."

(Hillary Werth)
(Hillary Werth)

I have a bucket list of things I want to do in life, and having my work in a contemporary art space is one of them. I get to check that off now. I’ve been pushing myself beyond the boundaries of what I feel comfortable doing, and feel like I’m creating my best art right now. I’m excited to see where my painting goes from here. I hope that soon, when people introduce me, it won’t be “This is Jayson Werth’s sister,” and I’ll be known for what I do.

"Untitled no. 4" at Randall Scott Projects, Saturday through Aug. 23. Artist's reception Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. 1326 H St. NE. 202-396-0300. Free admission. 

Jessica Contrera is a staff writer at the Washington Post.
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