2017 Land & Light & Water & Air Awards

By Mickey Myers
At its July Board meeting, the Bryan Memorial Gallery Board reviewed and discussed the unique character of Land and Light and Water and Air, its flagship exhibition, and the presentation of its awards.

The Board declared that Land and Light in particular reflects the unique character of the gallery. While many of the artists who exhibit in the show exhibit elsewhere, such as The Guild of Boston Artists, many are also emerging artists in Northern Vermont. Our exhibits reflect that diversity, and the award winners usually straddle both worlds, due to the professional manner in which we run our gallery, and its educational component.

In selecting a Prize Juror for this year’s exhibit, Nancy Patch was chosen in particular as someone who exists in all those worlds. Nancy is currently the executive director at Artist in Residence cooperative gallery which has been located in St. Albans for the past two years.

She was the founder of AIR in Enosburgh which opened its doors in 2006. She worked for the first five years in Enosburgh as director. This was and is a volunteer position.

In addition Nancy has been collecting works from mostly VT artists for the last 25 plus years and has a current Collection of around 200 paintings and photographs. Many of Nancy’s collection are by artists who have been represented at The Bryan.

Nancy lives in Burlington, but is a Franklin County native with a 6 generation history in VT. She is not an artist, but a lover of art, which is a critical piece of the art world. Nancy also brings her love of community and organizational skills to promoting local, living art and artists.

Without further ado, here are the winners and the juror’s comments on each piece.

First Place: Mary Martin for “After the Rain”

Second Place Neil Berger for “Early Spring”

Third Place: James Coe for “Swamp willows, Deep Snow”

Honorable Mention: Hilary Baldwin for “Resting in the Bay”

Notes on winning pieces by Nancy Patch:
My goal for evaluation of the many wonderful works of art was to find pieces that met all the criteria of the show.  Works that for me included Land, Light, Water, and Air.  I also wanted to have a representation of a diversity of styles if possible.  I put all of this in the context of the history of the Land and Light show, with an understanding of the traditional landscape art that the Bryan gallery is known for.  However I was also looking for that uniqueness and versatility that Mary Bryan celebrated in her own art.

Mary Martin: After the Rain

Mary Martin’s “After the Rain”

This painting just jumped out to me with its two compositional layers.  The right side of the painting “pops” with the fall color and the dramatic rock face (land) and the deftly captured reflection (light) in the river.  This river bend seems to be sheltered from the wind with the trees holding on to their leaves.  As the eye travels around the bend in the river (water) and to the left of the painting the colors soften as fall appears to be more advanced with bare trees whose leaves have fallen with the breeze (air).

Neil Berger: Early Spring

Neil Berger’s “Early Spring”

The painting style here is bold and brave and powerful.  I love the big brush strokes and heavy paint with those bright intertwining colors.  This painting also incorporates all the aspects of the show.  That awesome tree with roots that anchor it to the ground (land) while its colorful branches blow in the wind is remarkable. The shadows (light) of the tree branches laced among its roots are balanced with the actual branches above. The feeling of a strong wind (air) coming of the lake (water) is palpable.  The branches of the tree are dancing as the person nearby sits braced against the wind.  This is a painting that I could never tire of, with its movement and emotion.

James Coe: Swamp Willows, Deep Snow

James Coe’s “Swamp Willows, Deep Snow”

This is the VT that I am so familiar with; shrub swamp (water), abandoned field, and forest edge (land). I love a swamp; as Henry David Thoreau calls them “sanctum, sanctorum”, the holiest of the holies. It is however, the complimentary colors and composition that gives it the most appeal.  The soft airy brush strokes provide a sense of winter cold and calm. The orange of the birch leaves on the edge of the woods in the center of the painting meld with the leaves of the swamp willow in the foreground. This is balanced by the cloudy blue sky and the gray/mauve color of the interior woods, and then contrasted with the stark white of the deep snow that covers the swamp (air and light).  The composition breaks into three tiers of sky, woods, and swamp as the viewer enters through a path in the snow at the very front of the piece.

Hilary Baldwin: Resting in the Bay

Hilary Baldwin’s “Resting in the Bay”

A deeply calming summer scene.  The use of the slight color variations in this painting are so skillfully executed to create a realistic image of the water of the bay as it goes from mud flat (land) and marsh to open water.  The composition works beautifully to fill the space from the lower section of the painting showing the intersection of land and water, the center section of water to sky with the clouds and water merging in similar colors (light) and finally to the clear blue summer sky (air) at the top of the painting.  The marsh grass on the left and right help guide the viewer into the painting.  Composition, color, mood, all there.