On exhibit April 16-May 22, 2021 at Hygienic Art Gallery is “Collective Environments,” a curated show of 4 artists (Rachel Brask, Rebekah Church, Ron Bence, and Suzy Sholley). Collective Environments exists to reveal the wonders of the world outside of our digitally infested homes and discovering the treasures of nature and its experiences. These artists have been inspired by the current state of our Earth’s environment and have assembled to bring awareness to reusability, consumerism, industrialism and natures beautiful moments through found and natural materials, painting, and collage.
Opening Night was April 16, 2021, and here are some photos from the opening reception and of the Collective Environments exhibit. If you’d like to see the artwork in person, contact Hygienic Art to schedule an appointment, or drop by during their open gallery hours: Thursday-Saturday, 12-7pm, Sundays 1-4pm; call (860) 443-8001 or email Sara, firstname.lastname@example.org
In April 2021, I decided I would resume my art practice. I hadn’t painted a thing since my father’s cancer diagnosis and experiencing the mourning of his eventual death. It had been a hard year. In April, I picked up my paintbrush again, almost reluctantly, but necessarily.
During his care, I didnt have any desire to paint, only to take care of him to the best of my ability and spend as much time with him as I could, as we could as a family. After his death, my grief snatched my paintbrush from me, and anytime I even so much as walked into my studio, I would be reminded of my father.
When I finally did start to paint again on my first painting, it was a little more difficult than I expected. Not just like learning to ride a bike again, where muscle memory takes over, but learning to ride a bike with square wheels – not going anywhere very fast, even if going through the motions. To loosen up, when I taught one of my adult art students, we did a collaborative painting exercise, in which we would each make paint marks on individual canvases, abstract, and then switch canvases after every 4 minutes and do it again. The quick mark making and timed sessions helped to break down some of my hesitancy to even work with paint again, and it filled my studio with the smells of active oil painting again. This helped.
Over several weeks in March 2021, I kept having a recurring image stuck in my mind, an idea for a painting for when I returned to painting. It was of a canvas transitioning from black at the top evenly to a cool purple at the bottom, in the rainy style, but with a burst of white at the bottom right quarter of the canvas. I couldn’t specify exactly at the time what the image was, but I feel like the darker colors may have been influenced some by the sadness and grief I had been experiencing vividly every day.
So, I chose four colors – ivory black, dioxazine purple, cobalt violet, and white. Keeping my palette simple and my concept simple, I dipped my brush to canvas, and placed thick daubs of paint throughout the canvas, and the image in my head vaguely emerged, final so I could confront it visually and face it. The colors surprised me by how collectively dark they were, as I’m usually a bright-and-saturated-happy colors kind of person. But I allowed my brush to move. I cannot say that there weren’t a few quiet tears that emerged as I painted, it’s just become normal now any time I take a step forwards again.
The emerging image eventually had the feel of a cloudy, almost haunting, cloudy full-moon night over some purple mountains. I didn’t hesitate to use big gobs of black paint, as I no longer will shy away from using straight out black paint, which I had intentionally avoided using in past painting years.
Once the canvas was covered, it was time for me to employ my signature “rain” paintbrush application and smearing of paint using stand oil, pressure and gravity. I dipped my brush in the stand oil, and proceeded to drag the brush from top to bottom, mixing and smearing downwards all the paint from top to bottom, removing much of the paint in the process, leaving a somewhat distorted vision of what was previously painted. It felt good to do this process again. And in a way symbolic. This whole year, and especially the last 6 months, had been looked forward to and planned with some level of great precision, and then the storms of Dad’s pancreatic cancer, just destroyed and distorted all that as my world fell.
I let the canvas continue to drip for a few hours, and I returned to it every couple of hours with a brush to blend in some of the drips, to help others drip further, and to edit out some drips, especially the ones that were encroaching on the white paint, in order to maintain the clarity and impact of that part of the painting. I really loved noticing some of the striations and nuances in the detail of the the mixing, dripping, paint when looked at at close range. After a couple days, the paint stopped dripping, and I was left with the finished painting.
I was a bit surprised by just how dominant the application of the black paint ended up being. I removed some paint towards the bottom of the canvas that helps to show some more of the purple a bit better, but visible only in controlled lighting. In my original vision, the gradation from black to purple was much more even and gradual. I’m thinking of possibly painting this composition again, but this time use less-thick daubs of black paint on the top, and bring the purple mountain “horizon” line up more to halfway. I’m satisfied with how the white “light” kind of feels like a flicker, or a glow, picking up some of the purple around it. Reminds me of a match lit in a dark hallway, a light of hope even in darkness sort of thing.
It may not have turned out the way that I had anticipated or planned (isn’t it rare if anything ever actually does?), but I’m so glad that I’ve picked up the paintbrush again and got it moving again. Stay tuned for more upcoming paintings, now that I’ve started the momentum again of painting.
I’m also in need of suggestions for titles for this painting. Let me know if you have any ideas that strike you!
In mid-April 2021, I worked with HeARTspot Art Center & Gallery to make selections for their juried show, “Light at the End of the Tunnel.” This theme was not only perfectly timed and perfectly appropriate for a metaphorical light at the end of the covid-era tunnel, but for me it coincided with there finally being light at the end of a personal dark tunnel. I look forward to seeing all the art submissions come in, and was quite pleased with what I saw.
When I reviewed each artwork, I tried to soak in each piece, individually, allowing a means for finding the individual light in that specific painting, photograph, multimedia piece, or sculpture. Some were abstract, some were more representational, so we wanted to include a good mix of both expressions. Some were more literal expressions of lights and tunnels, others were more subtle, inviting interpretation. I examined the technical and the overall impressions each made on me, and juried in the accepted artworks. The pieces that I have selected for prizes will be announced at the opening reception.
The exhibit, Light at the End of the Tunnel, is now up on exhibition April 29-June 9, 2021, during gallery hours or by appointment. The in-person opening reception for the exhibit will be held May 27, 6-8pm. Contact HeARTspot if interested in making an appointment to see the exhibition: call 401-383-7577 or email: email@example.com or visit www.heartspotart.com
Selected Artists include: Wendy Anctil, David Lee Black, Sara Breslin, Joanne DeLomba, Andrew Eckstrom, Janet Eckstrom, Bob Eggleton, Eran Fraenkel, Donna Gagnon, Ann-Marie Gillett, Chase Henebury, Melyssa Lentini, Krzysztof Mathews, Michael O’Donnell, Mary Penta, Pamela Rojas, Sheila Smith, Jill Whiffen. Artwork by the gallery operator, Jennifer Gilhooly Cahoon, and art by the juror, Rachel Brask, is also on display with the exhibit.
On October 8, 2020, my most successful gallery exhibit came to a close. “Weathering The Storm” was the show where I set a personal record for most paintings sold in one exhibition! I was very excited, and so proud of how many people connected with my paintings.
On October 11, 2020 I learned that my father had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He stayed with us temporarily while seeking treatment at one of the top hospitals in Boston. I gave up everything, including my art practice, to just try to help with his care and morale the best I could. We tried to make the most new memories that we could, hopeful for a positive prognosis, but aware it could go in either direction, at any time.
In December 2020, shortly before Christmas, my father passed away, after a long two weeks in the hospital. I was fortunate to have been at his side as he took his last breath, along with my mother. My father had always been my light, my rock, my guiding star. He had always supported my artmaking and my dreams to be an artist. In the final days before he was about to pass, we even thought he’d be coming home, so we had cleared out my art studio, to prepare a first-floor room for him to recover in, but everything went downhill so fast.
In the immediate weeks after his passing, mingled with Christmas and New Year’s holidays, everything is just one big blur of grief, exhaustion, dealing with funerary logistics in the middle of a pandemic. My family returned to their homes, my own house now empty of the sounds I had gotten used to in all the chaos. I lived in a state of deep sadness for a couple weeks, weeks turned to months. I had heard about “grief brain” before, but this is the first time that I lived it firsthand, and lost track of time.
I tried to go in the studio a few times, to paint, but it was emotionally just too hard. I couldn’t even pick up a paintbrush without bursting into tears. My dad had used my studio as his own “little office” during the two months he was here, and after it just became a dump spot for other things in the house, so there was no room to paint, even if I had wanted to.
When the warmer temperatures of late February and mid March started blowing into New England, I finally started to peek out from my cozy grief cocoon, and started thinking about and setting goals in motion to start getting back to “normal,” or whatever that will look like. Progressively, I’ve felt a bit better each day, with time and self-care, and the love and outreach of friends and family.
I set a personal goal of getting my art studio back up and running by April 1, 2021. Today is that day. It is my goal to use this next month to reconnect with artmaking, showing in galleries, reconnecting with art students and teaching art classes again, picking up graphic design gigs, just doing the business of art all over again. I invite you to join me in this springtime of art, through sharing art social media posts, recommending my art to friends, dropping messages here and there, buying a painting or print, or booking an art class, or just to connect with what’s been going on in your own life.
The best thing I love about spring is the sprouting of new life through the colors of flower blossoms after the long, cold darkness of the death of winter. April showers bring May showers…so for me and my studio, I’ll be painting these April showers again soon.
OPENING APRIL 16TH 7-10PM SHOW RUNS UNTIL MAY 22ND
Collective Environments art exhibition
The upcoming exhibition at Hygienic Art Galleries, Collective Environments exists to reveal the wonders of the world outside of our digitally infested homes and discovering the treasures of nature and its experiences. Selected artists for this group show are Rachel Brask, Rebekah Church, Ron Bence, and Suzy Sholly. This will be Rachel Brask’s debut in the state of Connecticut!
These four artists have been inspired by the current state of our Earth’s environment and have assembled to bring awareness to reusability, consumerism, industrialism and natures beautiful moments through found and natural materials, or painting and collage.
Opening Reception Night is April 16th from 7-10pm and the exhibit runs through May 22, 2021. Hygienic Art Galleries is located in New London, Connecticut at 79 Bank Street. Gallery Hours are Thursday – Sunday, 12-7pm.