July, 2018 is a month that will live pleasantly in the memory of New Jersey mixed media artist Karen Bright.
It was the month Bright, 58, a full-time art professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, lived and painted at Weir Farm National historic Site on Nod Hill Road as the official artist-in-residence.
She visited the the home and studio of the father of American Impressionism, J. Alden Weir, as generations of artists have done. Set amidst more than 60 acres of painterly woods, fields, and waterways, as the web site puts it, she discovered why Weir described his home as the “Great Good Place.” Weir’s farm is an inspring place, and Bright spent the month there, living in the guest house, working in the studio overlooking a verdant wetland, and strolling through the woods to see the wildlife at the pond.
“It was a homecoming for me, a homecoming to Connecticut,” said Bright, who grew up in the Huntington part of Shelton. From the back porch of the well-lighted art studio, seated around a rustic wooden table, she could see large vines hanging from the trees in the woods.
“When I was a kid, I used to swing from vines like that in Huntington,” she said.
She talked about the wetlands, full of frogs and salamanders.
“When I was a kid, we used to catch as many salamanders as we could,” she said.
She has enjoyed the wildlife at Weir Farm, particularly around the pond.
“I’ve seen a family of ducks,” she said.
It’s been nothing less than finding her muse, she said.
It was serious business that brought Bright to Weir Farm, which is the only national historic site in Connecticut. She signed up to be artist in residence more than a year ago, expressly to work on paintings for her upcoming art show, Just Beaches, which will focus on the 2012 Hurricane Sandy, which tore through the tri-state area, destroying property and knocking out power for more than a week in many areas.
In one example, she has taken the graph chart data about high and low tides from the hurricane’s peak and translated it into a colorful red and blue piece that reminded one visitor of a colorized late-night highway.
Weir Farm has been sponsoring artists in residence for 25 years, said Pat Clark, administrative officer of Weir Farm.
The work space is a studio the size of a small barn. It’s better than any studio Bright said she has at home.
“It’ big enough to hang works and have room around the tables for what I’m working on now,” she said.
She plays recordings of modern symphonic music to help lubricate her muse, and keeps big fans blowing. Despite the humidity outside, it was comfortable in the studio.
Bright has been a professional artist or near professional artist as long as she can remember. She began painting when she was a child.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and a master’s degree in graphics design from Cranbrook Academy of the Arts in Michigan.
She has been married 34 years to a fiction writer, Anthony Taddei, and the couple has three grown daughters.
It hasn’t been her first residency at a national art site. She’s worked at a couple of national parks, tool.
“I kept my eyes open for this,” she said.
Asked if painting and making art is a relaxing way to make a living, she
answered without blinking that no, it is just as stressful, if not more so, than more common occupations.
“Nobody I know works as hard as an artist. And by that, I include writers,” she said. “Artists and writers are always thinking. There really is no downtime because their minds are always working, thinking about what they’re going to do.”
For more information on Weir Farm, visit the web at www.nps.gov/wefa.