DiStill Life

This holiday season seems overwhelmingly festive. Maybe it’s because I’m more clued-in to the community now that I’m going into my sixth winter here, or perhaps people are just feeling extra creative this season. Whatever the reason, there’s so many art exhibitions, craft fairs and trunk shows that it’s dizzying (see sidebar and full listings in the Holiday Handbook, page 39-40, and the Rocking Stone calendar, page 69).

One of the events topping my list is ‘Path to Heart,’ an exhibition of paintings and monoprints by Truckee’s own Brooke Bishop. Bishop is an artist’s artist, trained at the Art Center College of Design and Chouinard Institute of the Arts, both in Los Angeles. She exudes a unique, mellow spirit and her creativity emanates into everything around her: her home’s décor, her clothes and, of course, her paintings.

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Yet this is a portrait of the artist today. Not quite 10 years ago, things were very different for Bishop. After raising four foster children, she and her husband decided to adopt a son. ‘Having a newborn was riveting,’ she said, noting that her artistic life was essentially put on hold. ‘Yet the hiatus was good in a way. I like to have an identity as a human, too, not just a painter.’
Bishop became involved in her son Milo’s classroom art projects, and ran an art and Spanish language program at Glenshire Elementary.

It wasn’t until a recent remodel of her Olympic Heights home that her personal artistic outlet came back into focus.

‘We were putting the finishing touches on the interior, and I thought it would be nice to have one of her paintings on the wall,’ said Cathy Nason of Spirit Interior Design, who helped with the remodel. ‘It was like pulling teeth to get her to give in, but when she finally brought out ‘When I Began to Paint,’ a self portrait, I was blown away. There is such deep emotion in her work.’

This moment set into motion this month’s exhibition — Bishop’s first in six years — at Nason’s downtown Truckee gallery, for which Bishop reworked many of the paintings and giclées that were sitting dormant in her studio.

Having grown up in Pasadena and spent many years in Los Angeles, Bishop depicts an eclectic world in her work. Rich textures, ethnic patterns and influences of month-long family trips to Mexico in the 1950s characterize her paintings. ‘Lesson #1: Individuality’ is a visual feast: a woman holds a string of paper birds as her traditional Mexican dress circles around her and depicts various lifecycles of food, the ocean and outerspace. Another striking piece is an abstract titled ‘Everybody Has a Pool.’ Squares of blue are textured with scrap globs of ink she’s saved from her palette, and the razor blades she used to scrape off the ink.

Bishop’s latest muse is the natural world around her, here in the Sierra. ‘Sunrise,’ the work in progress I glimpsed while visiting her studio in late November, was simplistic. Its color-blocked hues came to her while she was meditating on her back deck, she said.

‘Path to Heart’ will showcase some 14 of these works and 20 monoprints, with a theme of the joys, mysteries and rhythms of life. Bishop says of the exhibition’s name, ‘It’s a learning process; I’m still expanding on the way to my heart.’

I think we’re all similar in that respect. And since it’s the holidays, there’s no better time than now to explore our heart’s desires, and thank those who feed them.

~ Email the author at lkorb@moon– shineink.com. Keep up with Lis and her coverage of the arts at blanksmith.com

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