Art is a journey not a destination
Two artists use nature's architecture to reflect the changing landscape of their lives
Despite the obvious differences in their mediums of choice, painter Donald Berry and photographer Jessica Klein Maynard share a common conduit of expression – barns. The work of both artists will be on display as part of a new exhibit at Studio Gallery 27.
“I look at barns as an element of coming down and starting to fall apart, yet they have this foundation that holds up the decay of its structure and can breathe new life,” Maynard said. “They calmed me down, and that’s why I photographed them.”
Maynard has channeled the energy of a major transition in her personal life into a creative mode of expression. Barns have offered her peace, serenity and an avenue for growth.
“The first one I ever shot had a very haunting feel to it, and that’s the one I love the best,” she said. “The clouds were right, the grass was right and the structure itself was right. The shot is kilted and has a haunting, dreamlike feeling – and that’s what I feel like going through this transition in my life.”
Cloudy, gloomy days are advantageous to Maynard’s craft.
“When the weather reflected what I was feeling, I would go out and start looking for a barn,” Maynard said. “I would be there for a while and let it speak to me, and move myself around looking through my lens until I saw in the barn what I was looking for.”
This project has challenged Maynard to expand the parameters of her subjects.
“It’s very unlike me to photograph something still. I’ve never photographed landscape or architecture before,” she said. “But similar to the barn and its foundation – through this project – I realized that I, too, have a foundation to stand on.”
Berry’s shift in his professional foundation led him to painting. And it was the structure of one particular barn that captured his curiosity.
“It’s not just a painting of a hay barn,” Berry said. “Actually, it is just a painting of a hay barn, but it was its blue roof that drew my attention to it. The blue excited me, not the damn barn.”
Now retired, Berry looks back on his 30-year career as an illustrator, designer and administrator in what he called the “greed factory.”
“All those years working for the federal government, I had to produce work that other people specified what had to be done,” he said. “I needed an outlet where I could do what I wanted to do for myself. That’s where painting came in.”
Berry paints primarily for his ego and to justify his existence.
“A lot of people relate to other forces to explain their existence. Most people rely on religion to define who they are and why they are here,” he said. “I rely on my work to define who I am, but I don’t know if that’s why I’m here.”
Berry thinks that if people take the time to look at the spiritual content of their surroundings, it will help keep their perspective in alignment. He uses a mode of creating that he considers somewhat instinctual to relate to his environment.
“If I see a scene that attracts me because of the lighting effect, I don’t want to duplicate it but want that experience to register in my brain,” he said. “When actually doing the work, my brain reverts back to my visual experience, and I use that as a guide to do my own landscape. Then it becomes my landscape, not nature’s landscape.”
Personal satisfaction is only one reason for Berry’s artistic expression.
“The ultimate expression is when people put out hard cash for it. In a cynical way, that’s true,” Berry said. “I have the luxury that I don’t necessarily need to sell my work to survive. So many artists really don’t flourish and bloom fully until they have some financial responsibilities lifted off of them.”
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