Seascapes are deceptive paintings. A balance of the solidity of earth and the fluidity of water, they combine elements that are firmly realized with those that are moving abstractions. That juxtaposition, a right mirror of the contradictions of life itself, may be why they appeal to so many on an unconscious level. It may be why painters like Winslow Homer did so many of his finest works as studies of the sea. Sure a good seascape may remind us of a wonderful day by the beach, but part of that wonder comes from knowing that the sea does not have to play nice. Perhaps that is why depictions of the churning waters attract us more than placid waves lapping gently at the shore. Not many painters capture that in a fashion that is not overblown, but rather one that causes the viewer to pause and reflect on the scene itself. Miriam Brock's painting does that.
In Brock's painting, Wet and Wild, a certain tone of blue made from the mingling of grays, whites, and navy, the distant band of slightly colored clouds, and those solid, dark, moss-covered rocks carry the mind to the east coast and New England. These are not the golden sand beaches of La Jolla and the turquoise to sapphire waters of the Pacific. These are waters that have rarely seen a warm day. The swell of the tide that rises up from being channeled between those rocks defies the viewer to dare walk out on those slippery wet stones. Instead one stands back to admire what is made to seem like a continuous flow of battling waters. If this picture could move the way that a freeze frame of a painting in a movie can turn into action as the story begins, each successive wave would do something similar, yet each would be unique, like the characters in a family drama. Brock captures that feeling and gives us the sense of that continuous action.
Miriam Brock has developed the knack of painting scenes that look like they could start moving at any moment. One look at this painting immediately puts us there among the people walking about in this park on some lovely summer day. We've all done that in a park somewhere. We know it. We hear the soothing sound of falling water from the fountain, feel the cool of the shade, and perhaps rest ourselves on a bench. This is the ordinary that the artist has extraordinarily put the viewer into. When asked about the audience she paints for, Brock says, "I just paint for myself." But does she? Brock's paintings are highly relatable. It is as if she has plucked our own memories out of our minds, so much so that when viewing her work, one finds oneself saying, "Oh, I remember a scene like this. It was...."
Brock grew up in northern Ontario, a land of great forests and deep snows. From a family of engineers, she says that she has always liked buildings, construction equipment, vehicles, barns, and old structures. In choosing her subjects, what catches her eye are "light and the way the shapes are arranged." In the painting, Sisterdale Barns (below left), it was the way the light fell on the two roofs of the old barn. The upper one has the patina of many years of harsh weather. Brock captures that scratchy look of painted patches and areas where the color has worn away in the way she handles the paint. The lower roof seems to be made of a different material even, perhaps a metal. It catches the sunlight, which Brock has represented in a fairly bright white, but with a touch of blue and a light gray that echo the shades of gray in the worn wooden planks of two of the buildings. From the look of those roofs, it seems that perhaps two of them had been painted red some time ago, as they show that same grayish white in areas where the red paint is missing. That grayish-white continues in the rails of the fence, which leans in several directions. The overall feeling is rustic and weathered. Most interesting is the sly addition of a vehicle in white just on the other side of the old red barn. That touch of white, the lower white roof, and the tops of the fence rails work to pull the whole picture together into one with the feel of being authentically out in the country.
Abandoned Mine (above right) captures the feeling of desolation that haunts such places here in Colorado. The Gold Rush, the Silver Rush, and the bust of both are part of the history of the place. Buildings and whole towns were built when the mines were producing, but once the key veins ran out, there was no need to stay. Brock shows the viewer the empty windows, the lack of vehicles, the unkept grounds of the old mining operation. The sense of loneliness and abandonment are heightened by the dull colors used to depict the landscape. Everything is beige or the lifeless dull green of dying grass. Even the road leading to the building changes color from a reddish earth to a blanched dusty-looking path, as if part of the road had been washed away. Abandoned and desolate, these buildings look like relics of an almost forgotten history.
Brock's career was in speech pathology, thus her dedication to communication skills. However, beyond the written and spoken word, she also always liked to paint. Therefore, when she retired, she did so with the definite plan to become a painter. She took various workshops, classes, and private lessons. Upon moving to Colorado Springs, she studied first with Laura Riley and then Deb Komitor, two well-known artists in Colorado Springs. She continues her studies through online seminars and work with the Alvarez Gallery Art School. In her home studio, Brock paints prolifically, and has stacks of small canvases that represent daily output, plus walls filled with finished works in frames. Brock says when she starts a painting, she likes to get it done. This doesn't mean that she is completely an alla prima painter, because she will return to a piece either immediately or perhaps a while later to see what she has missed or what she can correct.
While she says she paints for herself, she does admit that she likes it when people like her work. She views art as a powerful visual communication form, a "universal visual language." Certainly when looking at Deep in the Woods (above), one is given a specific message. Taken into the remote areas of the mountains, where one sees no roads, no vehicles, only a beautiful rugged wilderness filled with conifers, green and yellow grasses, and white and blue mountain waters, one sees a version of nature at its finest.
Being a Canadian from the far north of that country, where the weather can indeed be cold, Brock has what seems to me an especially Canadian affinity for the snow (see "The Chill Cool of Canadian Painting" on ofartandwine.com). In Light Peeking Through (below), Brock presents the viewer with the possibility of a midwinter thaw. Not only does the light peek through, but there seems to be a little stream of run-off created by the melting snow. The structure of the painting carries us from the barren trees in the front left along the line created by the flow of the snow melt back to an area of dead grasses among the conifers and beyond that to more snow. This painting invites us to take a walk in the woods, moving from sun to shadow, open spaces to closed spaces, and into the mystery of the deep forest.
There is a new way to see some of Brock's artistry. For those of us in Colorado Springs, and for any visitors to our beautiful area, there is a treat coming up in June, the opening of a new art gallery in Colorado Springs. Galileo Gallery is located in a lovely mansion in the Broadmoor area, owned by artist Michael Baldock. The Grand Opening will take place on June 4th and 5th from Noon - 5 P.M. Regular hours after the opening will be Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from Noon - 5 P.M. Sixty works will be on display for this initial show, including some by Miriam Brock.
Galileo Gallery is located at 1515 Old Stage Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80906
For more information contact Mike Baldock at firstname.lastname@example.org (719) 466-9318
Here is Miriam Brock outdoors doing her plein air painting and keeping her eyes open to the variety of life. When speaking of what she has learned from being an artist, she says, "to appreciate different points of view, and how people can look at the same thing and come out with different interpretations."
When asked what in her opinion makes something a work of art, her response was, "Art is in the eye of the beholder."
Contact info for Miriam Brock is as follows:
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