Annie Bai

COLOR CORE. Patton Blackwell’s PB Paraty, like any painting, is the result of a tangled, multi-step process. “All these steps combine to resonate to the core of each painting…” Blackwell said.

Show brings alumni artistry back to Randolph campus

Four members of classes who graduated in years ending in “2” or “7” have artwork exhibited: Patton Blackwell (‘67), Mystie Brackett (‘72), Rhys Conlon (‘97) and Dutton Foster (‘57).

Every year as school begins, the Harry M. Drake gallery displays art of the returning alumni in town for Reunion Weekend. This year, four members of classes who graduated in years ending in “2” or “7” have artwork exhibited: Patton Blackwell (‘67), Mystie Brackett (‘72), Rhys Conlon (‘97) and Dutton Foster (‘57).
Once a student A&E editor herself, Ms. Rhys Conlon rounded the circle. She found herself back at SPA in an interview with the newest A&E writer; this time, however, she is the subject of the article as she presents her artwork at the opening in the Drake Gallery.

Those little things suddenly elevate the presence of the artwork, and you start to see it in a different light.

— Daryn Lowman

Intended to surprise the audience and create movement, Conlon intertwines muted tones with bright colors overlapping the canvas. Conlon views painting as more of a practice, rather than a reaction to inspiration. “In the beginning, it’s kind of free”, she says as she describes the process of her work, “then it gets a little harder because I might edit out something regretted”, adding, “Sometimes, I’ve overworked something.” Conlon finds that the viewers reaction to her artwork is often rewarding: “The person looking at the painting sees thing I didn’t necessarily see or encounter.” Conlon loves art because it helps people empathize, it’s analytical, and you can learn a lot by just looking at it. “I just really need to make art, that’s just part of who I am,” she says.

Not only an alum but a retired SPA teacher as well, Mr. Dutton Foster returns to SPA to present his paintings alongside Conlon. The first thing that pops out in Foster’s work is undoubtedly the heavy influence of nature, trains, and boats, and how they coexist. He has a specific interest in early twentieth-century buildings: “I like buildings whose design is dictated by their design rather than by the imagination of an architect… so that they’re built in every visible detail.” In sixth grade, Foster discovered his fascination with building models of trains, continuing this hobby all of his life. Two summers after graduating from SPA, Foster encountered his first opportunity to operate physically on the railroad. Assigned to a crew, he worked on repairing railroads.

Though his art viewers can clearly identify his interest in trains, they can’t see every nut and bolt of how the machine functions: “If I were painting strictly for people who are into trains in a deep way, they [the art] would be a little less impressionistic and a little more hard-edged detail, like a super sharp photograph with more formal realism.” The most challenging part of the painting process Foster encounters is how to begin- either selecting a photograph he took himself, or one he found off the internet and trying to replicate it. Not only does Foster hope that his viewers take away a shared love of nature, but also an appreciation of what humans can do. “I paint to create something that I will enjoy looking at and hope that somebody else will share that feeling,” he says.

Fine Arts Teacher and Department Chair Daryn Lowman finds that galleries are able to act as an extension to the classroom: “a gallery space… the process of preparing work for an exhibition, where does it go, arranging the work, lighting the work… all of those little things suddenly elevate the presence of the work, and you start to see it in a different light,” Lowman said. When alumni showcase their work, it shows students the impact and careers SPA alum has created past their time at SPA. “It’s a way to show that it [art] can continue [past their high school career],” Lowman said. Continuing until October 28th, students, parents, faculty, and visitors stroll through the alumni gallery and appreciate the art.

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