Hello Arts and Culture readers! Today, we delve into the Lexington Public Library Art Gallery’s exhibition. The featured artist is Bill Berryman whose work is inspired by the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. So if you have a passion for watercolor, graphite, or utopian communities, look no further. This show has got ‘em all.
There are also quite a few cats.
The show is nostalgic for a place that feels worlds away from the downtown scene that is visible through the gallery windows. Quaint barns and bonneted women are starkly contrasted with swathes of Kentucky blue and rows of cars zooming past. It is peaceful in a landscape lacking serenity.
Many of Berryman’s graphite pieces feature fabric. Silence depicts a lone coat hanging on a rack. The draping of the fabric is handled delicately, drawing attention to the folds and creases. The blankness of the background enhances the composition and provides a satisfying symmetry.
Summer Bonnet is almost a portrait, but the bonnet shields its wearer’s face from view. It too is delicate and light.
North Lot Dwelling, Snow is a watercolor of a yellow house after a snowfall. The shadows of the trees on the blankets of white almost make me sorry to see winter fade. There is a certain quietude and solace in the out-of-focus brick and spindly branches.
The most expressive is Sister Twana, depicting a bonneted woman. She is throwing up her hands in praise, with her eyes closed, and her face upturned. Berryman also saw fit to give her a background, making the piece even more unique. She seems to be in a place of prayer, judging by the heavy door to her right and the paneled wall behind her. Her dress rivals the coat featured in Silence in terms of detail.
Brother Boomer is not a man but a watercolor cat. He seems to be contemplating the Shaker lifestyle as he stares at the floor with his tail wrapped around himself. It is unclear whether or not he is satisfied with his lot.
Berryman isn’t trying to prove anything or make an overstated point about the human condition; he is simply describing what he loves. He communicates through technique which he does most skillfully. In his artist statement, he writes, “I think the artist Edward Hopper expressed it best when he stated, ‘If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.’”