Vermont Watercolor Society – Mickey Myers

Bryan Memorial Gallery Executive Director Mickey Myers spoke to the Vermont Watercolor Society on the topic of artist/gallery relations. She was on a panel with Rob Hunter of Frog Hollow and Edward Bank of Gallery NorthStar at Killington Mountain Lodge on May 22, 2016. Following are her prepared remarks in response to questions provided by the Vermont Watercolor Society.

On behalf of Bryan Memorial Gallery, thank you for inviting my participation and the opportunity to bask in the rich focus of the VT Watercolor Society once again.

32 years ago, Bryan Memorial Gallery was founded as the Mary Bryan Gallery in memory of the artist by her husband painter Alden Bryan. They had arrived in Jeffersonville, VT in 1939 to participate in an intensive winter painting workshop led by the legendary Charles Curtis Allen, and they never left. Buying a dairy farm, introducing milk pasteurization to the area, establishing a bakery, a cafe, an inn, and a fine dining restaurant, Alden Bryan was never idyll, while Mary painted daily, even before she drank her morning coffee.

The purpose of the gallery was to show the original works of artists who came to the area, at the base of the other side of Mt. Mansfield, to paint landscapes. Alden said the unique value of the area for painters was that the paintings composed themselves. An inventive hanging system in the gallery allowed works to be installed and removed quickly, as Alden catered to artists who lived elsewhere, which included just about everyone, and tourists coming through the area. It is fair to say that Alden did not immediately envision the gallery’s popularity as a cultural destination, nor the need to double its size within the first 10 years. Nor did he care about practicalities such as storage space and a shipping area. It was the splendor of the camaraderie with artists, giving them a place to show their work that thrilled him.

When Alden died in 2001, the decision to continue the non-profit gallery was made by a Board of Directors, and a more typical non-profit profile emerged: a membership structure, annual giving campaigns, an annual fund raising event, silent auctions, sponsorships, donations at the door and all other such means. That Board decided to continue the primary mission of showing New England landscape painting, and while that distinction has broadened, it dominates today.

The Bryan remains a non-profit, a membership gallery. The first and foremost way to get its attention is to join. At $40 per year it’s a low rate for which there are approx. 400 members at any given time, mostly artists, and also many supporters and volunteers.   The exhibition schedule takes place over 10 months with January and April dark.

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Artist Spotlight: Jayne Shoup

Jayne Shoup is a painter living in Middlesex, Vermont. Her paintings usually depict scenes or objects from her central Vermont neighborhood. Each standing or slumping barn, towering tree, or unfolding flower in her work reflects the serenity and beauty of this area of Vermont. Some paintings are of New Mexico’s landscape and architecture. She is a member of the Vermont Crafts Council, Art Resource Association, Northern Vermont Artists’ Association, Bryan Memorial Gallery, and the Vermont Pastel Society.
Interview by : Tom Waters

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

I call myself a contemporary modernist painter. What I mean by that is I’m sort of a throwback to the true American Modernists who were painting between the two world wars.

I never went to Europe so I haven’t studied any art there so I have that in common with them. In the O’Keeffe / Stieglitz school there was this celebration of nature that I have as well. And they certainly brought more emotional kinds of feeling to work than what had been showing up in a lot of the paintings in that era. I call myself “contemporary” because I’m not dead yet, obviously, but I do trace myself back to the American Modernists.

How long have you been an artist, and how did you get your start?

I started seriously in the late 1990’s. I had been a writer for a long time, a creative writer, and that’s a tough trade too. Visual arts are hard, but I think a writer’s lot is worse. Talk about being in a vacuum. You are so isolated and it’s so hard to break in. I was disillusioned with what was happening and I’d always liked visual arts. I realized what really called to me was creating a visual image as opposed to doing that with narrative, with language. So I started in the late 90’s with watercolors and gouache, and then I took a pastel workshop with Linda Hogan in Montpelier. That’s when I got serious about what I was doing. I learned in the early years how to use pastels and that sort of thing. And like many people, I tried to render everything. You know, I’d look out at a landscape and see every leaf and I tried to do that at first. Then I realized I could edit things.

Your work is very personal.  As you state in your artist statement, you “depict scenes or objects from my central Vermont neighborhood”.  Describe how you choose what to depict and why.

Path   16x12 pastel
Path 16×12 pastel

When we first moved to Vermont in 1988, we moved next door to a working dairy farm that had about 75 cows and two farmers in their 70’s. It was really different for me. I came from a rural wooded area in western Pennsylvania and then came here, which was rural agricultural. I really enjoyed that. I liked it visually. I found the landscape very stimulating.

I walk a lot, and just seeing things, like old homes, sometimes falling apart, sometimes being restored. I like seasonal changes, that became more important to me. I got used to the rhythm of the land because of the farmers next door. I’ve never been a fan of painting snow scenes, but I have done that. There is not enough color in winter, for me, so it’s not my favorite. But I like looking around my neighborhood.

I recently started work on a piece, on my easel right now, inspired by neighbors building a new house. They built it on this little knoll of land. That was two years ago. I walk past there every day, and in the meantime they’ve added a mudroom and a deck. Three weeks ago I looked at the house and said, “There’s a painting!” Nothing had really changed with the house, but the sky opened up that day. There were some clouds and the sun was lightly covered and there was a little bit of a notch in the pine trees on one side and deciduous trees were on the other. The house was sort of centered on the knoll. And that really struck me. So it’s that kind of thing where I may see a particular scene for a number of years and then it becomes a painting for me.

Also, I sometimes feel like the scene chooses me, after a while, to paint it. At first I’m not quite ready. I haven’t looked at it enough. I don’t know. But I think over time, I keep looking at it and seeing it through different seasons. Then there is just that one day where, literally, the sky will open and now it’s a painting. That was it for me.

I find that happens quite often with this area. I’m lucky because we live in this little valley with a farm in it that actually isn’t in production anymore, which I’m quite sad about. But it’s visually striking because the barn’s still here and one of those old, eight-sided wooden silos. Just seeing those kinds of things stimulates. I live in an old farmhouse, circa 1848, and both houses next to us are a similar era. It’s that old New England look and I like that.

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Art and Human Conflict

Photo source: http://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/archives/photos

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.

Photo source: www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/archives/photos

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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!

Artist Spotlight: Eric Tobin

Warm Winter Day
Warm Winter Day – 24 x 36 oil

Eric Tobin is a painter from Vermont who aims to capture the beauty of the moment, the light, and the setting of landscapes. His love for Vermont can be seen in each of his works; evoking the feelings of the natural setting in which he chooses to paint. Most of Eric’s work is done outdoors, regardless of time of year, difficult setting, or rapidly changing conditions. He strives to paint the feeling of a place and particularly likes painting in the winter, spring and fall. Eric’s work has been shown in many New England galleries and is in private collections around the world.

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

 I would describe it as landscapes that are loose, semi-impressionistic. Years ago my paintings were a lot more poster-like. They had real hard edges. They still have a lot of contrast. I like sunny days with a lot of contrast, a lot of punch, but I think as I’ve painted, my edges have gotten a lot better, with hard edges, soft edges and disappearing edges. And then of course your color sense becomes a lot better. You become a lot more attuned to color variations and how they act upon each other subtly.

What are your goals in painting what you paint?

 When I’m headed out to paint my goal is to have fun. I try to capture what I see. I try to get the light, and I look for something that excites me.

In the studio I just don’t get that excited about painting. Sometimes if I’m painting from a smaller painting doing a large one it’s OK, but still, outdoors it’s fresh and quick. You only have so much time so you just get the essentials and you don’t worry about the details. You get the big light and dark shapes, the contrast, and how one thing affects the other.

Usually I look for something that interests me – when I get to a scene I say “Why does this interest me?” That’s what I’m going to paint. If you start painting then you look over and you see something on the left that’s interesting and so you put that in, and you see something on the right and you put that in and before you know it the original plan is gone. You have to try and get to a site and ask what drew you to the site, what interests you and paint that. Let everything else be subordinate to that.

When you talk about getting to a site and what interests you, is it usually a subject, a pattern of light, a color…?

Oh it’s all of the above. One day you might go out and it’s the contrast and the color of the light, another time is the subject, another time it’s the lines. Sometimes a painting is about lines, sometimes it’s about color, sometimes it’s about shapes and then sometimes it’s a little bit of everything. Continue reading Artist Spotlight: Eric Tobin

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