AMY J. BARRY, Special to the Day
Plein air (on location) painting has a rich history in Old Lyme that began with the 19th-century Lyme Art Colony painters at Miss Florence's boarding house, now the Florence Griswold Museum.
More than a century later, the tradition has been revitalized in an annual event, now in its second year, titled "Celebrating Lyme's Beauty," co-organized by the Lyme Art Association (LAA), Lyme Land Conservation Trust, and New London's Lyman Allyn Art Museum.
Dozens of artists participated in a one-day paint-out on May 5 at Clucas Field on Brush Hill Road in Lyme-last year's location was the Grassy Hill Church on Grassy Hill Road in Lyme.
Paintings that resulted from this year's paint-out were juried for exhibition at the Lyman Allyn (through June 30) and will then move to LAA from July 7 to Sept. 3, where the framed works also will be for sale.
"This is a fantastic partnership between three local nonprofit organizations, each with a connection to Lyme's remarkable landscape," says Susan Ballek, LAA executive director. "I'm a former board member of the Lyme Land Conservation Trust, and I have worked in exhibitions and education at the Lyman Allyn, so this was an especially rewarding partnership for me."
Ballek credits Molly Turner, Land Trust board member, with the initial idea to do a paint-out at a Land Trust preserve in Lyme.
"Where I've come in is with the actual organization of the paint-out, juried show and exhibition installation," Ballek says. "Because (LAA) holds over seven juried exhibitions each year?and has access to more than 1,200 members, 700 of whom are practicing artists, we were able to spread the word about the event."
Nancy Stula, director and curator of the Lyman Allyn, curated the exhibition, which includes works by both professional and amateur artists.
Stula says she selected the 51 paintings on exhibit out of about 75 entries, "based on quality-the artists control and handling of the medium."
She also says she tried to pull a selection of artists working in an abstracted style along with the more representational works.
Oils and acrylics make up the majority of the paintings, but there are also several watercolors, pastels and pen & inks. Many of the artists worked small in order to complete the paintings on location in the limited time frame.
Stula says the planning group for this year's event wasn't convinced the field would be the most inspiring location for the paint out.
"But lo and behold, it resulted in a surprisingly wide variety of images," she says.
The overcast day with its atmospheric light created romantic, moody colors and made the grass appear brilliant green in a number of the paintings.
Some of the works, Stula points out, were painted close-up and others from a pulled-back perspective.
Many people chose the field with its copse of trees in the middle-or only painted the open field. Others went into surrounding woods that has a creek running through it for the focal point of their paintings, she notes.
"That the same place yielded such variety is pretty amazing," Stula says.
Because all the work was painted on location, although some was completed later in the artists' studios, the one thing the paintings all have in common, Stula stresses, "is freshness of vision and spontaneity."
Stula says of the overall concept of the show, "Lyme Land Trust is spreading their mission, LAA is about supporting the artists, and then (we're) giving the artists an opportunity to be seen in a museum. We're excited to have them here. It's a fun project to do every year and it's important for the Lyman Allyn to collaborate with other (local organizations)."