Ray Brown: Sixty Years of Painting

Release Date: 
August 16, 2017

Center Road, painting by Ray Brown

Center Road, painting by Ray Brown

Ray Brown: Sixty Years of Painting​
at THE GALLERY at Central Vermont Medical Center

Through September 29, 2017

Artist Talk: Wednesday, August 30 at 4:30pm

Berlin, Vt – Ray Brown grew up playing hockey – not a surprise since his Uncle Walter was President of the Boston Bruins (and the Boston Garden – and inventor of the Celtics). He intended to go to college to continue hockey but realized he’d never play professionally so it would be wise to have an alternative plan. The Massachusetts College of Art was that plan. Brown received his BFA in printmaking and painting in 1963. He continued to play hockey – on a semi-pro team since art school did not have one – and almost made the 1960 Olympic Team. He was the last guy cut after the Eastern playoffs. (The team went on to beat the Russians!)

Sienna, 2011 painting by Ray Brown

Sienna, 2011 painting by Ray Brown

Then Plan B kicked in. Ray became a printmaker and etcher with George Lockwood, “Impressions Printing” in Boston, taught studio art and art history in Massachusetts high schools (Quincy and Hopkinton) and later printmaking at Worcester Museum of Art in Worcester MA and the Brockton Museum of Art in Brockton MA. Brown went on to get his MFA in painting at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in 1973 and further honed his skills at the Haystack Mountain School in Maine, Boston University and MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Ray and his wife Jody Wilson Brown moved to Vermont in 1982 to become the owners of The Drawing Board in Montpelier. Ray was the Brown of Stubbs & Brown Carvers and Guilders of Fish in East Montpelier for 10 years. In 2003-2004 he was visiting lecturer at Norwich University School of Architecture.

“My work, my design, is based on the golden mean –a way to find balance in anything. It’s about ratio and balance. In art school I learned to paint like deKooning and Rothko but I went thinking I would learn to paint like Corot or Sargent. I thought the professors had no idea what they were doing. It never occurred to me that they would try to teach me to paint like Diebenkorn or Sculley. Over time my work changed and evolved and changed again and again. When I arrived in Vermont 30 years ago I painted the landscape in the style of Corot. Sargent also influenced me. But eventually I became bored with painting. It was no longer fun. Then, when I was 66, I had a stroke. After that I had to learn to live and paint without the right side of my body. After a year in a wheel chair I learned to function again and returned to my studio and started painting with new skills. I started to paint with my left hand. Now I see that my handicap forced me to make changes in my painting that I really like. Things come full circle – now I see Sculley in my paintings. I am inspired by the landscape but I consider myself an abstractionist. ”

The Last Barn, painting by Ray Brown

The Last Barn, 2006 painting by Ray Brown

Brown’s paintings are his “reaction to places in the real world.” For many years he beautifully captured “in the style of Corot” the iconic Vermont landscape – its barns and rolling hills – with much acclaim. His palette was – is – flawless. More recent paintings portray Tuscan hill towns (Monterchi, 2009; Sienna, 2011) in their unmistakable cadmium red and yellow and pthalo blue. The architecture is more abstracted, the palette more bold. Brown’s paintings of flotsam covered beaches (Flotsam 1, 2 and 3, 2013) take the viewer right to the sand. The color and atmosphere are perfect. His paintings of the Barre granite yards (Swenson’s Granite 1, 2 and 3; 2013) perfectly evoke the pervasive cold and starkness of the snow covered blocks. And then Brown abandons the landscape entirely (and momentarily) to celebrate the Red Sox (McCarthy, 2015). Brown has yet to abandon the barn however. The trio of paintings – Last Barn #1, #2, #3; 2008 – have lost their ranking several times – as have earlier versions (Last Barn, 2006).

The work exhibited here represents the long painting career of a fine artist – an accomplished artist, a brave and bold artist who at 77, to quote him, “continues to learn and grow.” The earliest work exhibited dates not long after Brown finished art school (Leaves, 1965; Collage with Golf Leaf, 1985). The most recent paintings are from 2017. Brown paints his loves – any landscape, the Red Sox and travel (especially Italy). The exhibit is arranged chronologically although a few walls display similar subjects painted at different times in Ray’s career to note the similarity in palette or perhaps a radically different interpretation of a familiar subject. There are also gaps here because Ray’s work did not stay in his studio long. His paintings grace the walls of many homes - within Vermont borders and beyond.

“As to where my work is going I have a no clear idea. My paintings are a stop on a journey – they build on each other and are not ends or beginnings but part of the flow of my life. I have been painting since 1963. I am 77 and I am stilling learning and still loving it.” 

For information on THE GALLERY please contact
Maureen O’Connor Burgess at 802-279-6403 or moetown52@comcast.net