The Trials & Tribulations of a Hudson Valley Artist

Hudson Valley artistAudrey Brand delicately curves her paintbrush along the looping grain of the wood as a trio of European women pause on their way through Gardiner Liquid Mercantile in Ulster County.

Brand greets them, stepping back from her easel as they apologize for interrupting her work.

“No, you’re supposed to watch,”  she says. “You can have a seat if you want.”

They stare at the two paintings, creations at their half-way mark. One snaps a photo and they thank the artists.

Brand’s show, “Honeymoon,” opened Sept. 15 and was accompanied by a two-artist live painting event.

Brand’s current style involves abstract shapes mimicking the curvature of the wood grain beneath them. She first used this style her senior year at SUNY New Paltz and has created about a dozen of these paintings.

The works were produced over too lengthy a period to call them a series, Brand said, as there have been long gaps in her painting. However, she’s been much more dedicated in anticipation of the show, producing nine works in two weeks, six of which now hang on Gardiner Liquid Mercantile’s wall.

Brand picks the color palettes for the wood-grain paintings based on color schemes she sees in her everyday life or on images on the internet, she said.

“Sometimes I’ll think of the palate first and then I’ll make the painting, but sometimes I’ll get the piece of wood, and I’ll feel like this should be — that this has this kind of vibe,” she said. One piece of wood she selected had a jammy vibe, “so I used a lot of solvents to give [the paints] that kind of texture and created different kinds of red and plumb-y colors,” she said.

Hudson Valley artistWhat she’s working on now is based on the image of icing, and she named another wood-grain painting “syrup and honey,” so I joke about the preponderance of food imagery.

“I think that a lot of times, the colors, especially with the grain paintings — it’s like they’re so oozy and drippy it kind of makes me think of food…I think there’s just something indulgent about it,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t make a painting about broccoli and tofu.”

The name of her show, “Honeymoon,” relates to this feeling of indulgence, Brand said, because of the marital passage’s emotions, a “temporary feeling of this hyperbolic lust to enjoy — love that you feel that is made to be temporary…but I think that’s something I think about while making art.”

“Maybe,” Brand adds after a second.

An inebriated woman stomps in from the bar section of the establishment.

“Whatch’all doin?” She brays innocently.

Brand tells her they are painting

“Just because?” She responds.

Brand describes the live painting event was a way of kicking off her show at the establishment. There’s a very brief pause.

“I know someone here has a cigarette,” the women finally gets to. Brand does not, nor does her fellow artist. I dodge the question. Mine are in my car.

“It’s FINE,” the woman retorts. “It’s not like I really NEED it.”

Brand began painting at noon, and it’s after 5 p.m. She plans to finish at 10 p.m.

Brand’s paintings in the show are untitled, as opposed to “untitled,” wherein an oxymoronic label is placed below the painting making us aware of its status. Brand’s paintings don’t have labels.

“Sometimes I just don’t feel like naming them, and ‘untitled’ feels overly serious…I don’t want to say it’s douchey, because a lot of artists do it, and I get why they do it, and I have done it before, but…it didn’t feel right,” she said.

She has shown her paintings at the Gardiner Liquid Mercantile before, and describes the owners, Gable Erenzo and Zoli Rozen, as very supportive.

While preparing for the first show, “I felt like a fraud, I never felt like a real artist…and they were really encouraging, and when I sold something they were as excited as I was,” Brand said.

After the show closed, Rozen kept on asking her what she was working on, which helped to motivate her to set up the second show, Brand said.

The wood-grain painting Brand is working on is within her comfort zone. As it’s a live painting event, Brand doesn’t want to produce something she dislikes.

“I don’t want to experiment too much if I do have an audience, because if I make a painting that I don’t like, I get really upset, and I don’t want to do that in front of people,” she said.

Though she usually finds painting therapeutic, it has the opposite effect if she experiments and is dissatisfied with the result.

“It’s not like I can sit down and make a safe painting after that to make myself feel better,” she said. “If I make a painting that I hate I have to stop painting for a day, if not for maybe a week — or more,” she admits, recalling the gaps in her production.

Brand references one of her paintings on the wall, an abstract work of simultaneously balanced and chaotic dashes she says might be her next style.

“I do think a lot about how I don’t feel I’m pushing myself as an artist to do the next thing, because I’m staying in my comfort zone with these grain paintings,” she said. “So, eventually, I want to push myself out of that comfort zone. Not that you’re ever really ready to push yourself outside (it).”

Brand hopes this push happens organically, but doing the show was a step in the right direction, she said.

“If I can make myself keep painting in the meantime, I think it will come,” she said.

Audrey Brand’s paintings can be seen at the Gardiner Liquid Mercantile (in Gardnier) through mid-October.


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