Art and Human Conflict

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Article by: Chuck Henry

What is the value of the Bryan Memorial Gallery?

A response to this question was the focus of a previous blog that explored the deep interconnection between art and the complex social networks it creates and is sustained by. A painting in the Bryan Gallery can be the result of conversations and interactions between teacher and pupil, more abstractly between artistic fashion generations ago and contemporary sensibilities that inform our perceptions today, as well as the internal conversations we, as gallery patrons, bring to the images we behold. The lovely paintings that line the gallery walls are never really silent. They are aspects of the celebratory intellectual and emotional commerce of art: the power and sustainability of a public gallery open to our ideas, interests, and engagement, suffused with respect for the past and those who have honed their talent to bring us an enlightened understanding of who we are and our place in the world.

But there is a dark side of circumstance pertaining to art, an unfortunately consistent theme in our history: when the objects of our imaginative expression are purposely hoarded, destroyed, or reduced to a commodity as a result of violence.  Many people today have witnessed this twice in their lifetime in the most striking terms: Word War II, and the current Middle East tragedy brought about by the Islamic State, or ISIS. A brief look at these phenomena also underscores the value the Bryan Gallery brings to our community and the wider world beyond our village.

The 2014 movie Monuments Men offers a schematic portrayal of an actual military operation toward the end of the Second World War: a mixed group of professional art historians, most with military experience, was commissioned to find and retrieve the artwork looted by the Nazi regime.  In the course of the German invasion of Europe, museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions fell to the invaders, and a staggering amount of those artifacts were stolen. While the scale of theft was unprecedented, the attention to cultural heritage was not surprising. Art figured prominently in Nazi propaganda: the National Socialist movement was explicit about the ‘degenerate’ and debilitating qualities of modern (mostly 20th century) art, but prized the more traditional sculpture, paintings, and other creative works that preceded it. While personal gain figured in many of the thefts, a vast trove was amassed that was to be the core collection of the Fuehrermuseum, planned as a triumphant trophy to Nazi supremacy and Hitler’s artistic ‘vision.’ In the process of this looting, many confiscated modern artworks were burned or mutilated, and otherwise lost forever.

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Cabin Fever? We’ve Got The Cure!

Bryan Memorial Gallery’s “Cabin Fever” series of workshops and demonstrations kicked off in high gear this past weekend, with a portrait demonstration by Vermont artist, Karen Winslow. This was the first of a series of workshops and demonstrations this winter to chase away cabin fever and keep your artistic spirits high. Close to forty people braved the sub-zero temperatures on Sunday to come watch and learn from one of Vermont’s finest artists.

Karen Winslow explaining the finer points of portrait painting

Karen has been painting  since 1973, when she began studying oil painting, alongside her husband Jack Winslow, with Frank Mason at the Art Students League of New York and in Frank’s landscape workshops in Vermont. She has been painting, and teaching workshops ever since.

The crowd was delighted with the wisdom and talent on display as Karen walked them through, step-by-step painting of a complete portrait in just 2 hours. From bare canvas to finished study, she brought her audience along, explaining her approach, choices, challenges, and techniques.

Karen Winslow portrait painting

If you missed it, don’t despair. The next several weeks are full of additional demonstrations and workshops at the Bryan Memorial Gallery, including a full day still life workshop this coming Saturday, February 20th by none other than Karen Winslow. The rest of the schedule is equally engaging. Demonstrations are free, and all workshops still have openings, although you will want to reserve your spot before they are filled. To register, and for more details, visit the Bryan Gallery Workshop page.

Here is the full schedule…
February 20th: Karen Winslow –  “All that Glitters” Still Life Workshop
February 21st: Karen Winslow  – “Still Life Demonstration”
February 28th: Chuck Helfer – “Wildlife Photography, Wildflowers Lecture”
March 5th: Andrew Orr  – “Painting Skies & Clouds” Workshop
March 6th: Andrew Orr –  “Porcelain to Plein Air” Presentation
March 12th: Eric Tobin – “Winter Light” Painting Demonstration
April 2nd: Robert O’Brien – “Painting the Beauty of Spectacular Flowers in Watercolor”

We hope you’ll come out, brush off the cold, and enjoy some great art with friends and fellow artists. There is no better cure for Cabin Fever!

Finished portrait in just two hours!