“The Starving Artist” – a familiar term (often applied by artists to themselves) depicting the dire straits of one who devotes his or her life to pursuing this passion – at the expense of nearly all else.
The multi-faceted approach of local painter Barbara Bassett, however, just might earn her a piece of the proverbial pie. She says what is done away from the easel is nearly as important as what comes off it.
Bassett’s applied theory and persistence – even in the face of major family upsets – was affirmed, she said, through a recent series of events that haven’t ended yet.
The organizers of this year’s Silverton’s Wine & Jazz Festival selected Bassett’s “Smokin’ Jazz” painting for this year’s poster publicizing the May 19 event.
“It was my attempt to communicate the benefits to the community in that we have great wineries here and great music, too,” she said. “I wanted it to have a sense of vibrancy and action and fun.”
Bassett’s landscape “Peaceful Path” won top prize at the Salem Mayor’s Art Gala in February and her painting becomes a permanent part of Keizer Civic Center’s art collection.
Saturday, May 19, noon to 9 p.m.
Town Square Park and other
downtown Silverton venues
Bassett’s painting selected
as the event’s poster image
will be on display and up
for bid at a silent auction.
For a schedule including the
jazz artists, venues, and wineries,
or call 503-873-5615
The painting is near and dear to Bassett, for it is in keeping with her father’s visions before he passed away. He was a farmer, she said, who loved nothing more than to look upon and cherish the land. It was a comfort for him to recall such pastoral vistas, which he shared with his daughter, who translated them into a painted ode to his life.
Portland’s Attic Gallery has again accepted her work after Bassett’s three-year hiatus caring for ailing parents.
The trade at smaller galleries such as Lunaria Gallery in Silverton, of which Bassett is a member, tends toward prints, cards – less expensive ways to own and share art. Therefore, she works to get her larger pieces into the larger galleries, too.
Being a perennially optimistic person doesn’t hurt, but being well schooled in the arts of marketing and communications has proven a big plus to the artist, who once managed the Utah State Bar Association and was later a senior partner for an international consulting firm in the health care industry.
To her, the writing is on the wall: An online presence is key.
She’s been learning to leverage “social media,” an outcropping of the World Wide Web and now has a facebook page, a new website and is improving her photography skills.
“Artists need to be able to market their own work,” Bassett said. “(Through the internet) your art gets out there – and gallery owners are looking. Once they see you and know that you know how to cross-promote, you become more attractive to them.”
The internet provides a platform, she said, for how-to videos and blogs that make possible a personal connection with somebody across the globe.
And work it has: Three paintings destined for Bassett’s joint Lunaria show last month – with jewelry artist Helen Wiens – sold before the exhibit commenced.
“People are coming to me now,” she said. “I’ve already sold a few paintings out of my studio.”
Dr. Barbara Keller, a Silverton OB/GYN who has purchased 11 of Bassett’s paintings, laughingly refers to her home as “The Barbara Bassett Gallery.”
“The first painting of hers that I bought was really nothing like the others,” she said of the painting in the Lunaria window that caught her eye while walking downtown one evening.
“There was a light shining on this one great big seascape and it just glowed,” Keller said. “I went in the next day and I bought it.”
Two weeks later, Keller was captivated to receive a handwritten thank-you note from the artist. They met in person at the gallery several months later.
“She invited my daughter, also an artist, and me over for coffee,” Keller said. “When we went into her studio there was a painting that reminded me so much of Café du Monde in New Orleans, which is where I’m from.”
Keller left with four paintings that day, the café scene of the girl with the red coffee pot, she said, became the basis for the color scheme of her kitchen.
“Her paintings make me happy; I don’t know what else to say,” Keller said.
Molly Murphy, general director of the Gordon House, invited Bassett to show her paintings of the Gordon House there throughout the month of June.
“I had seen Barbara’s paintings of the Gordon House over the years,” Murphy said. “One thing led to another and for Christmas one year my husband gave me one of her prints. I just love her style; it’s sort of a perfect marriage between abstract and realism.”
Murphy said June is a good month for the exhibit, as people flock to the venue for Frank Lloyd Wright’s birthday and for a quarterly Gordon House board meeting. The iconic Frank Lloyd house, relocated to Silverton several years back, on the grounds adjacent to The Oregon Garden.
Admission to the exhibit is $2; tours, $10, include the show.
“I am going to be working forever; you can in art,” Bassett said. “I’ve been down in the trenches too long; I’m really ready to be in the sunshine – and I’m going to do it.”
There likely will be a special joy in some upcoming work, inspired by the homecoming of her daughter, Mikelle Bassett. Finished with years of medical school and internships, Mikelle, a pediatric gastroenterologist, has accepted a job at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. Their times together in the city, Bassett feels, could result in revisiting cityscapes and coffee shops as subjects.
“There’s a lot I want to improve in my art, but it’s like playing tennis; you’re shagging those balls and shagging those balls and knocking yourself out,” she said.
“I can return some balls now. I’m in the game. …I’m not great, but I’m in the game.”