Gay Bryant – Featured Artist

  • Posted by: Tomato Head, Market Square Manager • October 8th, 2018

 

Aristotle spent a lot of time thinking about the human drive to control circumstances that interfere with a happy, safe, and productive life.  As silly as it might sound, the philosopher was describing the same basic urge that impels us to insulate our houses and to buy insurance – we like to have a buffer between us and misfortune.  Of course, at some level and in some circumstances, control is impossible. Often the only seeming answer is acceptance which means letting go of control and hoping for the best.  Relationships can be like that.  Watercolors can be the same.

In fact, if you talk to as many artists as we do, you’ll find that many of them believe that their work guides them (not the other way around) and that the best thing they can do is to just get out of the way.  Artist Gay Bryant feels that way, at least some of the time: “Mostly I work in watercolor. And the key is letting go, to let the paint do its thing.”

And while it may appall some ancient Greeks and more than a few control freaks among us, her ability to trust in fate or good luck or providence (or whatever you want to call it) leads Bryant to more than a few beautiful places.  Her nature paintings are evocative without being dogmatic; the gentle patterns recall a presence, a sense of being there, but they’re not so specific that you can’t imagine being there yourself. In fact, you may feel compelled to visit Alum Creek or Icewater Spring at dawn to experience Bryant’s subjects with your own eyes.

Bryant hardly cedes all artistic control to her materials like a mystic or medium looking for meaning in automatic writing: “The paint sometimes tells me what colors to bring out or what shapes to develop.  But, if you look at some of my botanicals, they are very tight, very photo-realistic.  You can do that with watercolor, but my favorite thing about it is that there can be so much serendipity.  Letting it do what it’s going to do is one of my favorite approaches.”

While painting is decidedly her first love, as a life-long learner, the artist’s work and interests continue to evolve: “Mostly I’ve painted but later in life I got interested in print making though it feels almost like the antithesis of painting because you have to simplify things, and cut it down to bare bones in terms of color and shapes.  But it’s nice to go back and forth.  I teach both over at the John C. Campbell Folk School [in Brasstown, North Carolina].”

Bryant has been a teacher for much of her life, though at first her subject was business, not art. She recalls that, “Painting has been one of those things I’ve always done.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making art.  But my mother was determined that my sister and I were going do something so that we didn’t have rely on a man to pay our way through life. And art wasn’t on that list, so I became a teacher.”

Even through a successful career as an educator (including time at Pellissippi State), Bryant remained an active artist.  “Even when I was in college as a business education major, I had to continue with art just to stay sane.”  Today Bryant’s life is full of her work.  In addition to teaching at the Folk School, she also conducts workshops at the Swag in Waynesville.

And in all of this activity, Bryant is led more by her passion than by an urge to please.  She grins a little when she says, “If it sells that’s okay, if it doesn’t that’s okay, too.”

Perhaps that perspective comes of an acceptance learned from her experience with watercolors: life happens, let it be.  Or perhaps, it’s simply that the best defense against life’s uncertainties is finding love in what you do and maintaining your life’s passion come what may.

Gay Bryant’s work is on exhibit at the downtown Knoxville Tomato Head from October 7th thru November 4th and at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from November 5th thru December 3rd.

 

 

 

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