Saturday evening, the Darien Historical Society held its first silent auction and art exhibition in the newly dedicated 1827 Scofield Barn.
"We want to celebrate barns, to show their strong visual qualities and to show that barns are worth saving, because they are one of the elements that make Darien a special place to live," the Historical Society announced on their website.
Aptly titled Rural Remembrances: Barns in Our Landscape, the exhibition included barn paintings by some 40 local artists. Those works were mounted in early October and auctioned off Saturday evening. Fifty percent of all proceeds (yet to be determined) will benefit the Historical Society.
The society has compiled a list of 65 barns still standing throughout the town; an unknown number have been lost.
"The hardest part of growing up in Darien is seeing the changes," says professional artist Lisa Thoren, reflecting on the loss of meadows and pastures to housing and other developments.
"I want to do anything I can to preserve what we have left," she added.
Thoren, a former board member of the Historical Society, set about creating three paintings for the show. One is a portrait of a barn at the Ox Ridge Hunt Club, and another is of the Bealle barn on Brookside Road, both painted in realism style. The third is a stunning abstraction of a white barn that reposes in Lisa’s memory in shades of aqua and green. The work was still drying on the easel at her Holly Pond home this week when she invited two friends from her "Holly Pond Painters" Group, Carol Conze and Mary Morant, to share their own pieces for the show.
Carol painted a watercolor portrait of the barn on the Noroton Presbyterian Church property on Noroton Avenue. Mary chose a small white barn across Holly Pond on Cove Island and another on Red Barn Road.
Thoren also encouraged her husband, Peter, to try his hand. It was two years ago, when Peter discovered his untapped talent for art; and although he has a full-time business career, he has since taken up painting seriously, winning numerous awards at local art shows.
Peter’s contribution to the silent auction is an abstraction in hues of yellow, blue and harvest-orange, evoking a flooded marsh juxtaposed with a sun-dappled suggestion of a red barn.
Cate Leach, who takes a class at the Darien Arts Center with Lisa, is contributing a piece she described as "a work of assemblage."
"I started with an old wooden box, which was found in a barn," said the former dancer with the New York City Ballet. "From there I used my imagination, assembling real lengths of ribbon and painted trompe l’oeil ribbon to tease the eye and draw in the viewer. The same effect was used with both real feathers and painted ones."
It is called In the Barn. To some, it may evoke images of ballerinas dancing in delicately flounced costumery.
Chris Filmer, who is active with the Darien Land Trust and is also an artist, was drawn to the red barn south of the Trust-owned Mather Meadows on Brookside Road occupied by the O’Neill family.
Filmer said wanted to capture the barn just as the sun was illuminating its east-facing wall at 7 o’clock on a recent morning before taking part in a plant inventory for the Land Trust. He painted both a miniature and a larger version for the auction. He relied upon a photograph to achieve the effect, rather than painting en plein aire (in the out-of-doors) because of the ever-changing sun.
In early October, four accomplished painters were at work en plein aire at the Preston Beall Barn on Brookside Road. They were: Caroline Gantz of Westport, Marianne Rothballer of New Canaan, Kathie Milligan of Greenwich and Phyllis Padro of Rowayton.
Their subject is the handsome white barn with its two cupolas and ornamental trim typical of the Queen Anne style popular in the 19th century. It houses stalls for two horses, a coal stove and a caretaker’s apartment.
Gantz hurried to capture the shadows and rectangle of light reflected on the barn’s eastern wall. The image was fleeting as the sun rose higher in the sky.
Rothballer deftly sketched the western view before filling her canvas with color. Milligan, who teaches a course in drawing for continuing education at the Middlesex Middle School in Darien, painted in oils from a wooden pallette. They were joined by Padro, who had time for a quick sketch and a photograph.
The four artists assembled at the Bealle barn through arrangements made by Darien’s Britt Bair, who leads en plein aire artists to varied locations. Their works are often in shows locally and out-of-state.
Perhaps the most unique painting in the exhibition is Richard Sanford's Bates-Scofield Barn 1827 —. In unschooled folk art tradition, it depicts the Scofield Barn beneath a blazing blue sky, with a neat vegetable garden being tended by farmers long before the barn was disassembled and moved to its present site adjoining the Historical Society Bates-Scofield complex.
Sanford, the barn’s last owner, donated it to the Historical Society. While it was being taken apart, Sanford saved several exterior siding boards. They are the "canvas" upon which he painted his pleasing portrait.
Proceeds from Saturday’s auction will enable the Historical Society to expand ongoing programs for adults and children, and mount future exhibitions like this one: Rural Remembrances: Barns in Our Landscape.
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