Greetings fellow art fans!
The time of year has arrived when artists converge in the Whitney Western Art Museum. During the weeks of July 6 and July 13, we had the pleasure of hosting Michele Z. Farrier as our artist-in-residence. Farrier formerly taught art to K – 12 students in the Teton County School District. She studied studio art at UC Davis, arts education at CSU, Sacramento and continues her education, through workshops with artists from around the country.
Farrier primarily works en plein air using oils or pastels and adds finishing touches in her studio in Alta, Wyoming. En plein air is a French expression meaning “in the open air” and is most often used to describe the act of painting outdoors. In contrast to painting in a studio environment under artificial light, painting en plein air allows artists to experience and depict the atmospheric conditions while painting. In the mid-19th century working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school, the Hudson River School and Impressionism. The popularity of painting en plein air increased in the 1840’s with the introduction of prepackaged paint tubes.
Farrier states, “My work is done for the pure joy of observation,” adding, “I endeavor to recreate not only what I see, but how it feels to be there…The process is insightful and cleansing for me. I hope that I can share some of the freedom that I find while working en plein air through my art.”
While at the Whitney, Farrier demonstrated her observational and artistic skills by creating studies after two works from our permanent collection, N.C. Wyeth’s Above the Sea of Round, Shiny Backs the Thin Loops Swirled and Shot into Volumes of Dust (1904 – 05) and Frederic Remington’s Radisson and Groseilliers (1905). I asked Farrier how significant the intimate encounter with such prominent works was for her.
Farrier replied, “The environment is so inspiring! …When painting from a master’s work, there is a sense that you start to understand, perhaps, the thought process that went into the original painting. It is very exciting!”
Farrier chose the Wyeth and Remington paintings because they both include human figures. With the Remington painting, she was most interested in studying, “the simplification that Remington uses for the figures.” She was also intrigued by the color palette and composition. With Wyeth’s work, Farrier “was immediately attracted to the movement of the figures and wanted to explore how Wyeth accomplished this sense of authentic movement.” Further, she was excited for the “opportunity to study facial work and atmospheric perspective.”
While “painting was the highlight” of her experience as an artist-in-residence, Farrier was glad for the “opportunity to share what I was learning with the guests at the museum,” and was “thrilled to be able to communicate how exciting the week was for me.”