Artist burdened by war news feels better when she sees red

Old pigment leads Betsey Heuisler to `Joy Series'

Arts: museums, literature

July 08, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

When the crisis of war weighed too heavily on her mind, local artist Betsey Heuisler picked up her brush and tried to lift her spirits.

She hoped that painting -- something she'd done in the past for enlightenment, for comfort, for employment -- would bring her solace and peace of mind during the times that troubled her.

But finding a retreat from the news of the day would prove to be more difficult than she had imagined, and from her Baltimore studio she struggled with her emotions and the artwork that resulted.

"I was just sitting -- not morose, not depressed -- but just with a really heavy feeling of the absence of joy," Heuisler said.

But then she stumbled upon an idea -- an idea and a few tubes of crimson paint.

While in her workspace, processing the sense of loss she felt, Heuisler rediscovered a few small containers of hard-to-find pure-red pigment that had been bequeathed to her by an old painter friend and neighbor.

The deep and striking intensity of the old red oil, when paired with bright primary tones and cool, receding pastels, could create the perfect visual expression of what she felt was the complex relationship between happiness and its absence.

And so it was that the artist -- a woman who'd become known in the local art community for her reflective, realistic and close-up depictions of skin folds in hands and feet -- abandoned her previous style of work to start on an artistic journey that would lead to the visual, albeit abstract, expression of bliss.

The compositions that have since been produced, the Joy Series, are now on view at Paper-Rock-Scissors Gallery in Hampden.

More than 15 works are included in the show, which will remain through Aug. 7.

Paper-Rock-Scissors Gallery is at 1111 W. 36th St. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays. Call 410-235-4420 or visit www.paperrockscissors .com.

For more arts events, see Page 36.

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