The ambiguity of a sophisticated farm is the source of inspiration that led painters Brenda Behr and Robert Rigsby to capture Fearrington in a series of oil paintings. The artists share a studio in downtown Goldsboro, North Carolina. Problem is, they’re never there. They also share a love of plein air painting. Started in France by the group best known as the Impressionists, plein air is French for open air. In the mid-nineteenth century, new technology introduced a means by which paint could be placed in tubes, allowing artists to get out of their studios and enjoy the benefits of painting outside.
Working on location allows a painter to see better. Depending on the weather and season, plein air painting can also provide an artist with a dose of Vitamin D, the scent of the open air, the sounds of birds singing, a brook trickling, or leaves rustling; at Fearrington Village, a cow mooing. It involves all the senses in the activity of painting, thus providing an artist with more stimuli and ultimately, more inspiration.
In the same way that others are drawn to the beauty and charm of Fearrington, Robert and Brenda have found the destination well worth the drive from Goldsboro. Typically, their painting day begins with a painting in morning light. In the Village, the Belted Goat deli menu, coffee, and welcoming staff were a midday treat that became part of the reward and routine of the two painters. On highly productive days, easels and palettes were not put away until the enchanting grapevine balls of lights illuminated, warning that ample light to paint by would soon be gone.
Fearrington residents, including many a leashed pooch, stopped by to check out the works in progress. Several of the paintings include Fearrington’s mascot, the Belted Galloway. The cows’ black and white markings provide a start contrast to the muted colors of the pastoral landscape.
The idea for “Double Vision” came about after Brenda and Robert had made many trips to various North Carolina destinations to share their mutual passion to paint en plein air. At some point one of the artists stepped back from the easel to get a better look at their own painting, and upon seeing both paintings side by side, exclaimed, “How different we are! How interesting!” It may have happened at a sunflower field near Kinston on Hwy 70; maybe, on a blistering hot day in Cedar Point, on the streets of New Bern, in a cold muddy field on the outskirts of Greenville, at an abandoned farm in Durham, or closer to home when crepe myrtles were in bloom on a country road near Goldsboro.
One may prefer one artist’s work over the other. Robert’s more dramatic lighting is executed with a brush, while Brenda’s impressionistic execution is done entirely with a palette knife. On occasion, Robert might pick up a palette knife; or Brenda, a brush, but their paintings will remain uniquely their own. They bring you not good or bad, worst or best, but their own interpretations. In two distinct languages, they translate in oil, two unique visions of the land or city-scape they’ve mutually agreed to paint.
Through “Double Vision,” Robert and Brenda hope to reinforce that art is truly subjective, that it is not a duplication of nature, but a unique interpretation of the vision that inspires the individual artist.
To experience a bit of Brenda and Robert’s “Double Vision,” stop by on Thursday,June 6th between 6 and 8pm at the Granary for a visit with the artists and a look at their works created in and around the Village.