Painted memories: Unique art event set for Saturday

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Veteran artist Virginia Barrett stands among some of the works in her gallery on North Street. This Saturday people will have the opportunity to have their memories captured as paintings instead of mere photographs.

The Virginia Barrett Gallery in Greenwich has managed to house tradition and originality under one roof thanks to the revival of a trend Ms. Barrett helped create.

Documenting important personal events to preserve their memory has long been the job of the photographer, but thanks to her skill as an artist, Ms. Barrett said, she has been able to take memorable parts of people’s lives and turn them into more than just an image. She’s been able to make them into works of art.

In an interview with the Post, Ms. Barrett said the gallery offers a unique alternative by providing artists to capture an event by painting it live. This isn’t the first time Ms. Barrett pioneered this effort; she first offered it in the 1970s during the practice’s start, but with the progression and fascination with technology, specifically photography, the practice fell out of fashion. However, as with many trends, a comeback was in its future, and a recent New York Times article solidified its return.

Having been so familiar with the process, Ms. Barrett said, it was easy for her help usher it back into to her community with the help of her artists. And people are responding to this unique opportunity to have memories immortalized as art. Ms. Barrett works with clients directly to help them find an artist and a style that is right for them.

“People don’t trust their own taste, I help them to trust their own taste,” Ms. Barrett said to the Post. “There is no high-end advertising, no special membership. It’s about a connection between the people [having the event] and the art.”

Ms. Barrett feels that connection can be lost at times with photography. “There is a machine between the artist and its subject; there is a disconnect.”

The gallery offers at least 10 different styles and media from which the patron may choose, from realism to abstract expressionism, from watercolor to oil on canvas. Ms. Barrett holds a consultation in the gallery with all potential patrons where they can see examples of the artists’ work and be given an overview of their background and credentials. As a follow-up, Ms. Barrett will help place the painting in the patron’s home.

When capturing an event such as a wedding, the painting is often the first piece of art acquired by the couple, making the piece all the more significant. With these works it’s not only what the painting is of that makes it special, it’s often also what the painting represents.

This service is very much part of what Ms. Barrett says makes the gallery unique. In a media-saturated world bolstered by ever-evolving technology, it’s fair to say that what might seem traditional — like painting — will actually surface above the digital as being considered truly “new.” Housing the works of only American artists and works ranging in a variety of known styles, there is a sense of earnest tradition to Ms. Barrett’s gallery, but it’s her original spin on presentation that calls attention to what she feels is important about the work.

“You have to know the rules in order to successfully break them” she said when describing the way she hangs her paintings in the gallery. “I have a special way of hanging and lighting the work that is not typical.”

This sentiment carries over when matching an artist to those looking to have a live painting at their event, and Ms. Barrett said she recognizes the needs of patrons as individuals, just as she does with her artists.

Ms. Barrett’s staying power is evident in that she has been in the art world for almost 50 years, having owned 13 galleries. She has been in her current space on North Street in Greenwich for five years. Lending to that staying power is the trust and loyalty of her artists, who have weathered the changing economic climate with Ms. Barrett.

“My artists have gone right along with me, adjusting prices if needed,” Ms. Barrett said.

She added that the live painting service is also a “new way for an artist to connect with an audience” during such a time.

In celebration of the revival of live painting, the Virginia Barrett Gallery will host live painting sessions with her accredited artists, where interested parties can see them in action. These events promise to be lively demonstrations of this new service by way of a timeless medium.

“The only way you can create an original atmosphere is with an original,” Ms. Barrett said.

The next live painting event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 16, from noon to 2, weather permitting, at the Virginia Barrett Gallery. Light refreshments will be served. The gallery is located at 1055 North Street and may be reached at 203-629-3858. More information is available online at virginiabarrettgallery.com.

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