Current Issue

May 2022

Night

PROLOGUE / Night
CAMEO / Sarah Bouchard
FROM THE STUDIO / Journey
IN BRIEF / May 2022

Night

This is the eternal origin of art: That a human being confronts a form that wants to become a work through them. Not a figment of their soul but something that appears to the soul and demands the soul’s creative power.

– Martin Buber

My bedroom is cool, the window open to the spring air. Outside, the insects and peepers are silent; the hum of a fan in the crawl space above, barely audible, is the only sound.

That, and my fingers tapping on my iPad screen.

I have insomnia.

It’s dark. There’s no moon tonight, and as the bedroom faces the forest, there are no cars or neighborhood lights.

Just woods.

And I am awake.

I was talking recently about art as my steady companion, how through times of grief and confusion I can always rely on it, helping me through like a faithful partner. Words can be that way for me too: like syrup and song, sweet.

(A distant bird’s warbling momentarily breaks the midnight hush.)

Earlier in the day, I was asked to be an expert – to judge art. My task (along with two other jurors) was to single out a pair of artists among 12 to be recognized for the merit of their work. We complied with the assignment, spending time in the gallery with our measuring eyes.

The job made me more uncomfortable than I expected; lying awake with this weighing on my mind, I turned to words.

I am writing as a confession: today, I stumbled into betraying my belief in art.

I do not believe in evaluating art’s merit; though we act as if merit is a thing that matters with art, it does not. Art is not made to be meritorious – it exists because of urgency, to meet that “something that appears to the soul and demands the soul’s creative power.”

I abhor judgment toward art, and I judged today – that is my confession.

(In the gloom, an owl’s hoot rises, and then falls.)

*****

I dream of Elisif again.

In the dream, she is an adult, reckless and indifferent, arrogant and in peril; the atmosphere is sickening. I want to wake, and I do, only to doze off again and pick up right where I left off.

“I’ve made up my mind. Nothing you do or say will change that.”

Too real. Too hard. I sit up.

I recall the day Elisif died. That very day, drawings came to me, ready-formed in my head.

(“This is the eternal origin of art: That a human being confronts a form that wants to become a work through them.”)

I made them, of course.

Nearly two years later came the exhibition Elisif’s Story: recorded voices knit together in a quilt of a tale filling the gallery, dim lights rising and falling, washing across those same drawings.

Like salve and psalm, holy and unbidden as my haunting dreams, art rises from a place of mystery, “merit” and “expertise” irrelevant.

(A loon cries its aching song, a companion in the night.)

Sarah Bouchard

The thing about beauty is it’s only beautiful outside of itself.

– Ocean Vuong

To the left of the door hangs Oculus, smoke, a painting by Dozier Bell, one of six artists included in the Sarah Bouchard Gallery’s inaugural exhibition, A Gathering of Aces. The painting (stunningly detailed, like Bell’s other five works in the show) revels in sky and light, cloud and smoke – a vision majestic and mysterious; as romantic as the full moon implied by the rendered oculus of the painting’s title.

In some ways, it’s a painting about how framing focuses our attention, allowing art’s luminescence to shine from within, distraction elided by careful consideration of what lies outside the bounding edge: us on that other side, looking in at art’s beauty.

And for Sarah Bouchard, it’s all about the door.

“The photo of Oculus, smoke next to the door may be my favorite,” she says, referring to one of several images of the exhibition she offered to illustrate this article. “When sorting through the initial concept and values and mission of the gallery, I thought a lot about portals… taking one into another realm – emotionally, physically and psychologically. The door is the gateway. It’s so important to me.”

As a gallery owner, Sarah is adamant that her job is to provide that door: to facilitate the art being seen, and then get out of the way.

“I’m making a space that is designed to highlight and focus and genuinely center the art. It’s not about me – it’s designed to not be about me.”

Prior to creating her own gallery, Sarah had worked as director and curator at the Corey Daniels Gallery in Wells, Maine, for seven years. In April 2020, with the onset of the Covid pandemic and due to differences with the gallery’s owner, she left that position without a notion of what would come next.

Sarah viewed the moment as more of an opportunity than a crisis.

“I spent much of the first months of the pandemic out in my garden cutting limbs and wondering what my next step would be. Having a gallery of my own had been a dream of mine for 20 years, and then when it came to it I had to ask, what do I really want?”

She reckoned with a variety of possibilities: working as an art dealer without a gallery at all; accepting the invitation of a friend to run a gallery in Europe; repurposing her art studio over the garage to be a studio/gallery hybrid.

None of these ideas stuck.

“Thinking about the artists who were willing to work with me, the caliber of their work, I knew I needed to go all-in. I needed to honor the integrity of their work, which meant creating a gallery. I wanted to create a destination for people to experience the art deeply.”

The vision for the Sarah Bouchard Gallery was born.

What Sarah understands about running a gallery is something she first learned as an artist.

“I recall walking into the first juried show I got into. It was devastating to see how my painting was placed – it felt like everything present in the work was drained; it was dead. Whatever I’d put into my work was not honored.”

That experience stuck with her: presentation always matters.

Becoming an independent curator, however, was anything but a straightforward path for Sarah.

Born and raised in Brunswick, Maine, she attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she quickly switched her focus of study from chemical engineering to writing (“I didn’t have the stamina for all that computer lab time”). Shortly after graduating in 1998, she turned her focus to making visual art (“words were too confining”), enrolling in a handful of studio courses at Baltimore Community College. She returned to Maine to pursue a second undergraduate degree, this time a BFA from the University of Maine Farmington (UMF), where she had her first taste of curatorial work.

“I was an intern with Sarah Maline, the Gallery Director at UMF. She was a great mentor, and seeing the way she focused on detail and the way she ran the gallery was so inspiring to me. I asked her if I could curate a show.”

She did – and has continued doing so.

“I love working with artists, I love placing things in space. The way things are hung in spaces is crucial – the way art is laid out is essential to understanding it. I don’t think people are paying enough attention to that.”

That Sarah does pay attention to that perhaps explains why the artists featured in A Gathering of Aces were drawn to her in the first place, and she’s grateful.

“They were with me when I had no plans – nothing,” she says. “The show is a massive thank you to them because I’m so grateful they took a chance to work with me.”

Nestled in pines in a light-filled space off a quiet country road, the Sarah Bouchard Gallery officially opened on April 9th. The day was wet and cold, but that did not keep people from coming to the reception: collectors and artists, guests and friends, mingling and conversing, connecting with one another exactly as Sarah might wish – had envisioned as possible.

“It was beautiful,” she recalls. “It was lovely and no one wanted to leave. It was a beautiful experience.”

For the event, she provided drinks and light fare on the deck. People passed in and out through her gallery’s door all evening, seeing the art in all its beauty framed within. Easy fellowship abided.

Sarah remained outside on the deck the entire reception, out of the way of the art: she provided the door, and that was enough.

Indeed: that is the point.

The Sarah Bouchard Gallery is located in Woolwich, Maine, and can be visited by appointment. The next show, a solo exhibition featuring Dozier Bell, opens Saturday, May 21. RSVPs to attend the reception are required – contact the gallery for details.

Journey

What you seek is seeking you.

– Rumi

How lost I had felt when I made these.

Two sad drawings, sketches mostly in charcoal, a few words penciled in the margins. I had not before combined writing with image in my art: visual art was visual art, and writing was writing. But suddenly, I needed to put them together.

I was journaling – line and feelings, free of self-judgment.

At the time I made them, more than two years after my daughter’s death, nothing had turned out as I thought it would. My family remained splintered, the New Day Campaign had become a burden, and I continued to grieve my daughter.

So much grief.

Then out of nowhere, these drawings. And from them, a wellspring of combined writing and drawing that would bear so much fruit, bring so much healing.

(“What you seek is seeking you.”)

Within a few months, I began a project culminating two years later with Beyond Beautiful: 1,000 Love Letters. And in summer 2019, I started a series of memoir drawings – works I wrote about not so long ago. Around the same time, another body of work: drawings incorporating passages of writing by others, their words so meaningful to me.

All this work held my hand as I navigated life changes I never could have imagined.

What I love about art is, like a prayer first offered then answered, it finds me. Through art I have learned to trust intuition and impulse; in letting go and allowing, I find my way.

Or rather, art shows me the way.

If I can just be still enough to notice.

Closing notes go here

May 2022

Becoming Online

Thank you to artists Schroeder CherryRichard CleaverConnie ImbodenVagner Mendonça-WhiteheadKen Royster, and Colette Veasey-Cullors, with whom we completed a run of online programming this past month. If you missed any of it, all three conversations are online and can be seen here.

This Can Be Yours

With each newsletter, we offer at deep discount a work of art by Peter. This drawing is from a 2012 series of 9″x9″ watercolors of which we have only a few left. Be the first to email Peter to claim it (see a large version of the drawing here), and it’s yours for just $15. For more art for sale, visit our sales gallery.

Welcome Nora Howell

We are thrilled to announce Nora Howell, artist and former Program Director at Jubilee Arts, is joining the Bruun Studios team to (among other things) lead our social media efforts. We welcome her, and invite you to follow us on Instagram and Facebook, where things will become lively in the days ahead.

Want More Writing Like This?

Several weeks ago, Bruun Studios launched a new Writing Portfolio section on its website: all previous Out of Place editions in one spot, early blogs by Peter at a formative period in his life and work, and more. Click on over and have a look.