Art and nature. The nature of art. Nature effecting art. The Paul Smith’s College VIC, under the direction of canoe guru Brian McDonnell, is doing a pretty good job of tackling these issues. For over a year now Brian has done both the physical work of building and maintaining trails and buildings on the property and he’s also managed to have a full, year round schedule of events, programs, and some fine exhibits of art in the visitors center.
Currently on display are paintings by Saranac Lake artists Tim Fortune and Matt Burnett. Both paint the natural world of the Adirondacks and both paint big. Very accomplished small paintings are on display too, but it’s the large scale images that are truly moving.
Tim’s large watercolors bring you eye level with a frog, or so close to the leaves of a tree that you can hear them rustling in the wind. Tim’s paintings are big enough to step inside! They are a full sensory experience – even though you have to have that experience by standing in front of them. They are impressive from a distance but when you approach to within inches, you find yourself inside of the environment, created brushstroke by brushstroke.
While Tim’s paintings are classic, graceful compositions of exquisite natural beauty, Matt’s are rugged, overgrown, tangled views of the wild side of the Adirondacks. In fact some of Matt’s paintings are mounted on the outside walls of the visitors center at the VIC – to spend a year at the mercy of nature. All the years I’ve known Matt, he hasn’t just painted nature, he’s entertained nature as a partner in the creation of his art. I’ve seen video’s he’s made of a marker attached to a tree branch, suspended over a drawing surface, making gentle arcs and lines as the wind affected it. He’s made giant snowballs and projected images on them. Matt really uses nature in his art. So his 8×8 foot paintings mounted on the exterior walls will greet hikers and visitors approaching the building like giant windows. Or perhaps more like mirrors reflecting the 4 seasons. Will they hold up through blazing summer sun and frigid winter temperatures, or will nature over power these paintings of nature? (Would that be suicide or extinction?) We’ll just have to watch and see.
The Paul Smith’s College VIC is open daily from 9 – 5, the trails are always open, there’s a farmer’s market there on Fridays, and usually every week some kind of interesting program, bird walk, music performance or art exhibit to compliment the art of nature.