Retrospective Remembers Local Artist Brian Sweetland

Retrospective Remembers Local Artist Brian Sweetland

Retrospective Remembers Local Artist Brian Sweetland

Brian Sweetland’s easel at one of his favorite places by the Mettowee River. Photo by Mary Beth Sweetland.

Brian Sweetland’s easel at one of his favorite places by the Mettowee River. Photo by Mary Beth Sweetland.

For nearly four decades, Brian Sweetland was a familiar figure standing with his easel by the roadside, shadowed by his dog, painting farms and Holsteins in the blazing sun, or snow-clad tractors frozen in time. When Sweetland died accidentally last fall, shock and sorrow reverberated throughout the Mettowee Valley and beyond. To honor the man and his exceptional talent, a selection of paintings his life’s work has been collected for a retrospective exhibit at the Southern Vermont Arts Center, opening Saturday, August 2, with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m.

Sweetland inhabited his work as fully as he inhabited this place he loved, painting outside every day. His brush fixed the restive skies and the resting cows to the canvas; he caught and saved the profound peace of the fleeting moments that he experienced physically, spiritually, emotionally.

Of his own development, he once said tthat he attributed the lightening of his palette over the years to “the commanding dictates of being outside, the raw sun.” He painted with a sure and practiced hand; he was a skilled draftsman. His palette was subdued, he once explained, because that’s the way he felt about the landscape here. The essence and substance of Vermont are caught and saved to canvas by the heart and the hand of this extraordinary artist.

Locating and collecting these paintings for documentation was no small task, and is an ongoing effort. Through the efforts of his sister Mary Beth Sweetland, who is co-curating the exhibit with SVAC’s Penny Viscusi, the exhibit contains 100 of the 500 works documented thus far. Sweetland was indifferent about pricing, and did not burden himself with keeping track of his work. When the family asked people to bring their Sweetland paintings to the gathering at Pawlet Library shortly after his death, scores of works – portraits of companion animals, perfect little wood carvings, sketches he did for fun – appeared among those that would not be out of place hanging in the world’s finest
galleries. Sweetland’s devoted
following of peers, admirers and collectors can now get a fuller sense of the all- too-brief journey of this beloved master painter with this retrospective, along with the book compiled by his sister.

“We all miss him terribly, and will continue to do so for a very long time,” said painter George Van Hook. The exhibit will run from Saturday, August 2 through Sunday, October 26, at the Southern Vermont Arts ‘s Wilson Museum, located on West Road in Manchester Center, Vt. A reception will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on opening day. For more information, call 802-362-1405.