An Insider Look at an Artist & a Gallery

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Gail Severn of the Gail Severn Gallery illuminates on fine art in 2018

By D. Gibson

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Sun Valley has seen an increase in activity on all economic fronts lately, from the building and remodeling of new hotels to more airline flights into the region as well as new campaigns from Visit Sun Valley and the construction of the new Argyros Performing Arts Center. A large effort has been put in place to increase the attraction of Sun Valley to more visitors, second-home residents, and those relocating. As a result of these positive changes in Sun Valley, the art market in the area has benefitted.

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Evening (Spruce Trees, Indian Paintbrush, Fireweed, Daisies), Fourth of July Creek Canyon, Custer County, Idaho 2011 (Diptych) 1/5 by Laura McPhee. Archival pigment print, 41” x 52” each framed 41” x 104”, overall framed. On view at Gail Severn Gallery.

“We have had a great couple of years in recent times, especially after the economic downturn and the massive forest fires that occurred in the Sun Valley area,” tells Gail Severn, owner of Gail Severn Gallery. “The marketing campaigns and new construction throughout the valley have made a tremendous difference. We are a destination where people come to enjoy the outdoors and feel safe in a beautiful environment,” she says. “People enjoy this sense of community, and they, in turn, support the galleries and the businesses as well as all of the events in Sun Valley. The arts are a major attraction that add a great deal of richness to visiting and living here.”

Although the art world is booming in Sun Valley, there is, however, a larger looming trend in art that has many perplexed. As a generational changing of the guard is taking place, the art market is faced with a dilemma on how to attract Millennials. The days of a gallery or museum visit as well as the technological advancement of shopping online are changing dynamics in the art world.

“The art world, at large, is going through some challenging times and there’s a lot of discussion, for instance, on the art fair phenomenon, and who it’s benefitting,” Severn explains. “There have been some interesting articles written by art publications and blogs about the massive surge of art fairs, and how they have become an economic machine, and about how they only benefit blue chip galleries and the people who put them together. This leaves a broad range of galleries who struggle to make it work because of expense and time. Yet, how do we attract new buyers and collectors to art beyond our small town?”

Many of the artists exhibiting this summer at Gail Severn Gallery are telling their version of how times are changing through their artistic voices, which speak to many issues about the next generation, politics, and more. Exhibiting artists this summer at the gallery include celebrated photographer Laura McPhee, whose images incorporate landscapes, junkyards, and environments of industry sending a subliminal message through beautiful and engaging photographs.

Also featured this summer is Hung Liu, who is considered one of the greatest Chinese painters living in the U.S. She has received numerous awards, including two painting fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and is also an immigrant. Liu has very strong political feelings toward migration, poverty, and the disenfranchised and has taken works by photographer Dorothea Lange of the “Dust Bowl” era from the collection in the Oakland Museum of California to depict this in the 21st century and her own story.

Revered artist Squeak Carnwath is even more overt with a body of work on exhibition at the gallery that addresses the “#metoo” movement and her own personal and political beliefs on the current administration as well as a series of “song paintings,” for which she uses text from iPod devices of songs in conjunction with her paintings.

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“People enjoy our sense of community, and they, in turn, support the galleries and the businesses as well as all of the events in Sun Valley. The arts are a major attraction that add a great deal of richness to visiting and living here.”
—Gail Severn, Owner, Gail Severn Gallery

Gail Severn Gallery is also presenting much-admired painter Michael Gregory, who takes a new direction with his work, which is always immediately recognizable due to his meticulous attention to detail in American icons of barns, homesteads, and imagined fields.

Alyssa Monks, a new artist at the gallery, will present her fascinating work, blurring the line between abstraction and realism by layering different spaces and moments in her paintings. She has flipped background and foreground using semi-transparent filters of glass, vinyl, steam, and water over shallow spaces in her 10-year-long water series. Today, she is imposing a transparent landscape of infinite space over evocative subjects.

The twists and turns of politics are quite often an artist’s greatest source of ideas. At the Gail Severn Gallery, these summer exhibitions illustrate how these ideas have been woven into fine art, offering new perspectives on some general perceptions from politics to landscape, but all revealing an uncanny and provocative sense of artistry, which reflect the work of these extremely talented living artists.

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Gail Severn Gallery Upcoming Exhibitions

Alyssa Monks
June 27 – July 26, 2018
Artist in attendance for Gallery Walk, Friday, July 6, 5-8pm

 
Laura McPhee
June 26 – July 26, 2018
Artist in attendance for Gallery Walk, Friday, July 6, 5-8pm

Michael Gregory
August 1 – August 29, 2018
Artist in attendance for Gallery Walk, Friday, Aug. 3, 5-8pm

Hung Liu
July 27 – August 29, 2018
Artist in attendance for Gallery Walk, Friday, Aug. 3, 5-8pm

Squeak Carnwath
June 26 – July 26, 2018

Also exhibiting this summer at Gail Severn Gallery are artists Julie Speidel, Linda Christensen, Kathy Moss, and Anne Siems.

gailseverngallery.com


Artist Melissa Graves Brown captures a dream

By D. Gibson

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“I find it’s a place from within that people enjoy my work and would like to surround themselves with it.”
–Melissa Graves Brown

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For any art lover, whether a serious collector or a casual appreciator, the connection to a work of art is a unique bond that may not have an explanation. Yet its mere existence is essential. This is why Melissa Graves Brown paints.

“How lucky am I to bring color, light, and joy into people’s environments,” says Graves. “I find it’s a place from within that people enjoy my work and would like to surround themselves with it.”

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Graves has been painting her dreaming trees and aspen groves for more than 20 years. Her iconic style is known throughout the West, across the nation, and throughout the world, and these symbols of life are her communication to countless admirers. Married with two children, Graves arrived in the Wood River Valley in 1999. Today, she still paints her whimsical yet vibrant, inspiring trees and shares a studio with her husband, Christopher Brown, who creates graphite pencil drawings.

Graves explains. “My true hope is that these groves and single trees are universal and allow people to reminisce into a special place—a place of joy and inspiration. Being grounded and connected to nature is important, and it’s a necessary reminder in our current existence.”

A blue moon grove, a red tree, or a dreaming tree is the world in which Graves exists, when the brushes flow across the canvas, which is eventually sprinkled with colorful paint splatters and drippings that appear as a layer of golden dew drops or that moment when a fall wind whips up a pile of aspen leaves. Whether it’s a commission or inspiration, Graves will paint on several canvases at once, allowing her choice in color to become a common or dominant thread throughout a body of work even if there are different compositions in play. What is it that has made Graves an iconic painter who is consistently revered by her community and so often awarded by the public?

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“I enjoy accommodating my clients because we are doing this together. Sometimes, people want to see only a tree, others want more of my paint splattering, and there are those who want to choose and change colors. I make it work.”
–Melissa Graves Brown

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“I always start a painting with an intention and when I finish it, sometimes I wonder who created it,” reveals Graves. “I enjoy accommodating my clients because we are doing this together. Sometimes, people want to see only a tree, others want more of my paint splattering, and there are those who want to choose and change colors. Together we make it come to life”

Trees are powerful in people’s lives and as a large canvas painter with a familiar subject, Graves makes her work as interesting close up as it is from far away. There are many layers, washes, and details that have to happen before Graves completes a painting. She can work on multiple paintings at once because there are many stages and techniques she implements in each painting she creates. Graves’ collectors want to know her and her method because that is also a part of her appeal.

“I started this journey long ago, and now it’s has a new take,” explains Graves. “I feel like I am contributing something of great importance, and I present a reminder that there is joy in the world. The trees are my recognizable subject matter, and it’s what I know. What else would I do?”

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