Rush Brown Interview: Painting Casco Bay
On Friday we will be celebrating the opening of Rush Brown's exhibit "View Over the Bay" with a reception from 5-7 and we hope you are able to make it. Rush has been showing his work at the gallery for years and and we are so grateful each time he brings new work to us.
In anticipation of the upcoming opening, Rush Brown graciously answered some interview questions for us to share with you about the show and his life as an artist.
Your exhibit is opening at the gallery this week. Can you please tell a little bit about the show and how you came to choose the pieces to include?
These paintings basically represent my view of Casco Bay. I spend a lot of time on the water here, in Portland. So these paintings represent my personal experience. Some of the pictures are from the vantage point at sea level. The more urban pictures almost all represent a view I used to have, living on Newbury Street, Portland. I lived there for 15 years and almost every day, painted and photographed our view of the harbor. That view initially took in The Village Cafe, ShipYard Brewing and innumerable rooftops in the neighborhood. It also featured loads of activity in the harbor. One could see almost all the way to Ram Island Light. Of course all of this changed. Due to extensive development, one can hardly recognize the neighborhood today. My pictures represent Portland harbor in a way that is recognizable yet inaccessible now that the area has been built up.
You have had a long and successful career as an artist. Did you know from an early age that you wanted to be an artist? What inspired you to choose that path?
Oh, I got the idea very early that drawing, painting and sculpting was something I could do and ever since, that realization has powered my subsequent involvement with visual Arts .
You spent a number of years as a teacher teaching a variety of art related topics. Was there something in particular you enjoyed sharing with your students the most?
I very much liked opening students minds to the notion that they could “draw” or more specifically, obtain skills in the manipulation of the elements and principles of design. Having established this capacity, they were then free to exercise their own creativity fort whatever they wanted. So I enjoyed the idea that i was freeing them to be more creative.
I know you have painted a diverse number of subjects over the years. Your current focus seems to be Casco Bay. Can you tell me more about your interest in this area?
I love Casco Bay and enjoyed painting these paintings but recently I had a show at the Maine Jewish Museum of paintings of people looking at art. It did however, involve similar elements - figures and interior and exterior space.
What is your work environment like? Do you paint in the studio? En Plein Air? How do you feel most comfortable when you are painting?
I have a studio/office where I work out everything. I have often painted “en plein air”. For 7 summer I pained out side, in France for clients here and in France. I often paint outside, around the bay. Those paintings are relatively small compared to the paintings in the show. I may take some large pieces outside in the near future… We’ll have to see what develops.
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there artists and places that have most inspired you over the years?
I always refer to Cezanne when considering how these rudimentary tools such as paint and brushes can be applied to establish visual relationships. Part of the reason I went to France was its distinction as perhaps the “naissance” of modern Art. There are huge numbers of Artist who have done amazing things that I wish I’d done. I love the “figure” I love works with an editorial or a narrative aspect to them. I often think of Hopper because I admire the way he integrated the figure in the landscape. I love,... Bruegel similarly… Canaletto, Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin are sources of delight for their perspective and geometric arrangement of space… I love most of what I see in contemporary Art, but generate most of my own pursuits from some solitary place. I am open to change and like to think that I am still developing. So who knows what might come...
I just read on your website that you are working on restoring the mural you painted for Wright Tech in 1983. How exciting! How did it feel to see your mural after so much time? How is the restoration project going?
Oh, it’s done. The story goes like this: In 1983 I was awarded the job of painting a mural at the JM Wright Technical School, in Stamford CT. It was a wonderful opportunity where I was able to hire my boss (Everybody should be able to hire their boss) and it really changed my life professionally at the time. The mural measures 260’ long X 10-15’ high. Life moved along and in 2016 I was approached and asked to submit a proposal for rehabilitating the mural. So again I hired my ex boss (now friend) and proceeded to restore and actually rework the mural. So now there are aspects of it that weren’t there in 1983. It’s an interesting work… not really what I do stylistically… Yet the size of it and diversity of it relate to my concern for narrative.
I know it is hard to choose, but do you have a favorite painting that will be featured in your upcoming exhibit?
How about this:... Not yet… The paintings were almost done simultaneously and I am virtually panting at their completion. I will say that all the work represents the challenge to render a particular subject and work in a large, panoramic format. I hope to work more and even bigger… !
Thank you so much to Rush for giving us such thoughtful answers and an inside look at his life and work. We can't wait for the opening on Friday and hope you will find the time to be there to see the paintings he spoke of and to meet the man himself.
July 31, 2018