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

Continue reading Art and Human Conflict

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

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

 

 

Art as Social Network

We have become accustomed in the 21st century to the term ‘social network,’ and often think it is a fairly recent phenomenon. Interestingly, the term ‘social network’ arose in the late 19th century as a new method to study human interaction, usually defined as the relational communication of individuals or groups with shared values and interests. Our contemporary proclivity to understand social networking as a condition of modern technology is an accurate reflection of the enormous role social media plays in connecting us, but there are important distinctions compared to the networks of the last century. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and myriad apps on our smart phones, weave us in ways that are deeply personal, but also startlingly anonymous. Much of our networking is with millions of unknown people, some real, some fabricated; today, technologies have become the relational mechanism, encouraging ephemeral, passive postings and simple ‘likes’, with only a modicum of shared values and interests, other than a seemingly universal desire for visibility in a world of immense complexity and a tsunami of background noise.

Nonetheless, technology can be used to develop genuine communities of interest, and this inaugural blog, the first of several on behalf of the Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville, Vermont, will focus on a social network that conforms to the more personal, shared ideas and values of the original term. The social network in question is ancient: the relationship between individuals and societies with art: the objects of artistic expression that include paintings, sculpture, photography, and other visual representations that comprise our culture. This network has existed for tens of thousands of years, and while the representations of artistic creation can significantly change, many of the elements of our relationship with and through art remain constant.
Continue reading Art as Social Network