Gerhard Richter’s Painting After All at The Met Breuer was the last show I saw before the pandemic erupted. The exhibition closed March 12, 2020, just 8 days after opening. I felt so lucky to have seen it—what a majestic display.

Then for more than a year, our world shut down. So much of life necessarily went online. A forlorn period—a time of loss and pain, loneliness and ennui, separation and sadness.

But not altogether.

In our shared isolation and our need for connectivity, we discovered Zoom and experimented with digital programming and events. The art world invented new mechanisms for sharing art, expanding possibility in lasting ways. Challenged by so much, we changed our methods, devising new ways to be together.

I too changed mine.

With this newsletter, I introduce Bruun Studios’ new look: simpler, more streamlined, more current. And this is just the start: on Thursday, June 24, at 4:00 p.m., I will launch Bruun Studios’ dynamic new digital platform, on which I aim to capture some of the energy and experience of past in-person events, this time for a global audience.

Details coming soon.

Zoë Charlton

This month’s Cameo introduces Zoë Charlton, who turned toward community in 2020 as pandemic-induced isolation and racial strife dominated the headlines and our lives. Zoë is serving as host along with John Schratwieser for the June 24 launch of Bruun Studios’ new digital platform.

Grappling not only with COVID but also with the racial violence roiling the country, Zoë Charlton stopped making art for six months.

“The pandemic and the trauma induced by the media-saturated racial violence arrested my ability to work—I was immobilized,” she says.

Zoë is an artist and tenured professor at American University. For years she has been in constant motion, pursuing an art practice that includes making large-scale figure drawings—often of Black women and incorporating “culturally-loaded objects and landscapes with undressed bodies.”

Her work was relevant to what she calls “The Times,” and yet she stopped producing it.

“I know the importance of the content of the work. But during The Times, did I actually need to be dealing with this content in this way?”

Zoë realized she needed fellowship more than time in her studio. She joined two groups, The Circuit and The Blacksmiths, a coalition of artists, curators, and activists focused on “direct action and civic engagement in the service of Black liberation and equity,” according to its site.

That changed everything for Zoë.

“I experienced a lot of love and catharsis (and continue to) from working with these groups that are intergenerational, multiracial, multiethnic, and interdisciplinary. What put me back into the mental and emotional space to create artwork is that love. Working collectively gave me a way to contribute and put my values to work,” she says.

Zoë’s story of connecting with others at a moment of social crisis speaks to the healing power of community, and the restorative promise of love.

Painting Again

No Title (Small Blue), Peter Bruun, 2019, 9″x12″, oil on gesso panel

I had not completed an oil painting since 2005.

To work in oils, I need plenty of time and space, reliable continuity from day to day, and freedom from distraction. I had managed to keep painting since graduate school in the late 1980s, but by 2005, I was reduced to making drawings—a respectable pursuit, but not oil painting.

And so it was for a long time; for years.

From 2005 to 2011, I had been founding director of Art on Purpose; a few years later, it was the New Day Campaign keeping me busy. Along the way I managed to complete two studio projects, Autumn Leaves (2013-2014) and Beyond Beautiful: One Thousand Love Letters (2017-2019), but neither included paintings. With my life fragmented and my energy diluted, working in oils no longer felt possible.

I missed it. Badly.

But by summer 2019 I had finally tamed my relentless work schedule and moved to Maine. I had sought and then found peace. I could finally paint again, and began by making No Title (Small Blue) along with six paintings just like it. This seven-piece series marked a personal inflection point, signifying my return to me. I became a painter again; an artist in full.

And I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

May 2021

Coming Soon:
A New Website Experience

If you click over to Bruun Studios, you’ll see I have shut down my website for now. If you are not already subscribed to Bruun Studios, sign up here to be sure to receive announcements about my upcoming new digital platform.

Social Media Update

Bruun Studios’ Facebook page has a new look, as does the Instagram account. Both platforms have been fairly quiet in recent months, and both will become more active in the days ahead. Follow us @bruunstudios and don’t miss a thing.