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.

Artist Spotlight: Mark Tougias

Summer Reflections   20 x 24 oil
Summer Reflections 20 x 24 oil

Mark Tougias is a self-taught artist who has been busy painting since childhood. His earliest surviving drawings and paintings date back to when he was eight years old. From an early age he learned by studying the masters and at age sixteen he began exhibiting. Mark has exhibited in over forty galleries and has had over thirty-five one man shows. Among his numerous awards are the first Alden Bryan Gold Medal for best in show awarded in 2007 by the Bryan Memorial Gallery.

For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your art?

Thatʼs a big question! I like to think, and hope, that thereʼs a spiritual quality in my work. Something that goes beyond the non-literal. It may look like a pretty picture on first look but I want there to be more to it. For me the landscape is the vehicle for all kinds of human expression, emotion and spirituality. That could be still-lifes for somebody else, or it could be figures, for me right now itʼs the landscape. Iʼve always been an outdoors person.

Itʼs interesting that you bring up the spirituality of your work. In your biography you mention influences from: the Barbizon painters, American Tonalists, the Cape Ann School of Painters, and others, and its clear seeing a lot of those influences in your work. Some of those schools of painting, it sounds like they are trying to achieve the same thing as you through the landscape.

I think so, I think a good painter will try to achieve that either consciously or unconsciously. For me itʼs probably a little bit more conscious. It depends on the painting too. It might be a little more conscious that other painters, only because Iʼm not just concerned with a “pretty picture”. I donʼt know if my work reflects that. Iʼm not really free to judge, but I hope it transcends the scene. I have never been strictly a literal painter. For me there are a lot of other elements that come into play. Itʼs not an easy thing to talk about either because – how can you put these things into words? Although I do representational work Iʼm not a literal painter. Most of my paintings are not exact representations. Some are, and thatʼs OK. Others are changed around quite a bit to get the results that I want. Some are completely made up to get the results that I want. So Iʼm very wary of not just going out there and putting down what I see exactly all the time.

Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Mark Tougias

The Lost Painting by Jonathan Haar

Some of my favorite books and movies are art related.  One of the first art novels I read was Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracey Chevalier.  It’s a novel about Johannes Vermeer, life in 17th century Delft, Holland and the girl who sat for his famous masterpiece.  The movie starring Scarlett Johansson & Colin Firth was also very well done and seemed to employ Vermeer-type lighting.

Since Girl with a  Pearl Earring, many other art novels have been written.  One of my favorites, is The Lost Painting, by Jonathan Harr.  Harr is the author of A Civil Action and professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.  In this book, Harr weaves a detective-type fictional story, based on solid documentation, about a priceless Caravaggio masterpiece, The Taking of Christ c. 1602, which had been missing for two centuries.  As you may surmise from the title of the book, the painting is discovered.

lost painting cover

The book revolves around Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, Caravaggio scholars (I was not aware, but there are thousands), conservators and the incredible records from the European archives.   It also gives an inside look into the dealings of museums and galleries, as well as  the conservation process and it’s associated pitfalls.

As the story unfolds, a clue discovered by a graduate student while scouring some European archives, leads to the search for the painting.  The archived documentation indicated that the painting was located somewhere in the UK.

In addition to the original Taking of Christ, there were also 12 known copies of the painting, some believed to have been painted by Caravaggio, his students, or his  “studio help”.  One of the copies was stolen in 2008 from the Odessa Museum in Ukraine and later recovered when the thieves tried to sell it in Germany.

damaged copy stolen from Odessa, Ukraine in 2008Caravaggio_-_Taking_of_Christ_-_Odessa,_damaged

As the search for the original  painting intensifies, a Caravaggio scholar/conservator is called by a monastery in Ireland to look at a painting which required cleaning and restoration.  When the conservator sees the painting, he immediately knows what he has found, the long-lost Caravaggio, the Taking of Christ.  The conservator does not reveal his discovery to the monastery.

The story now changes direction and delves into the analysis of the painting to prove it’s authenticity.  To completely verify this, the conservator wanted to acquire  another Caravaggio and take a minute fleck of paint for analysis and comparison to confirm the painting was painted by Caravaggio himself.  Acquiring another Caravaggio to make this comparison was a difficult task which took many months of negotiations with the museums of the UK.   Finally, another Caravaggio is acquired on loan.   However, when the painting arrived, any material analysis had been cleverly precluded by the loaning institution.

Eventually, a conclusive determination is made that the painting is indeed the original Taking of Christ, and the conservation process is started.  During the initial restoration, improper materials were used which caused major, near catastrophic problems.  The painting required a second restoration in a more appropriate manner using the materials of Caravaggio’s era.  Astoundingly, this restoration was also seriously botched again and a third and final restoration was required.

Today the painting resides in the National Gallery of Ireland, on permanent loan from the monastery.

For me & many others, the book is a page-turner. Learning about Caravaggio, the scholars, the archives, the conservation process and some of the dealings between museums,  was very interesting & informative.

774px-The_Taking_of_Christ-Caravaggio_(c.1602)

The image of the Taking of Christ.  Caravaggio painted himself in many of his paintings.  The man at the far right with the dark beard holding the lantern which illuminates the scene is believed to be Caravaggio.

 

by Jim Gallugi