The Experimenta Artists pose with their contributions to a “quilt-like” ensemble. Back row, left to right: Lisa Dutton, Linda Sullivan, Sandy Taylor, Rose McCay. Front row: Kathleen Ryan Cox, Linda Meyer-Wright, Carolyn Rogers Richard.
The Experimental Artists
of Brown County
by Rachel Perry
photo by Cindy Steele
Two things that can stifle growth and creativity are lack of stimulation and an unwillingness to try new things. Neither of these scenarios can be linked to a group calling themselves the Experimental Artists of Brown County. Comprised of seven artists—Kathleen Ryan Cox, Lisa Dutton, Rose McCay, Linda Meyer-Wright, Carolyn Rogers Richard, Linda Sullivan and Sandy Taylor—the women meet every month at the Brown County Art Gallery to stretch their collective artistic energy in new and untried ways.
The artists explore innovative ideas in watermedia using transparent watercolor, acrylics, inks, collage, and various techniques to apply color and texture. “One of us may get an idea and say, ‘I wonder what would happen if I did this,’ and then some of us will also try it,” said Linda Meyer-Wright. “The interesting thing is that, even when we start out with the same technique, we end up with totally different works. Often we teach each other by demonstrating and showing what we’ve been working with on our own. The group is supportive and non-competitive, since we are each doing such different things.”
Originally spearheaded by artist Sue St. John, experimental art sessions began with only a few participants, including Kathleen Ryan Cox. Gradually others joined. Linda heard about the sessions from a friend and asked if she could come. “Sue St. John was almost a split personality artistically,” she said. “She was a very traditional Brown County watercolorist (representational landscapes, barns) and she got into experimental art.”
Ms. St. John eventually moved away but the group continued to meet.
“I have not been able to find a definition for experimental art,” Linda continued. “To me, it means using more than one medium but also not having everything plotted out before you start. You ‘go with the flow.’ Asking, ‘what would happen if I did this?’ Part of doing a traditional piece is that you know what you want it to look like. But when you’re doing experimental art you tend to let the materials dictate what it wants to be. You don’t worry about everything being perfect.
“We’re liberated from the idea that a piece might be a failure because there are no failures! The worst that will happen is that the work becomes part of a collage. It seems like in the beginning I would read magazines that would talk about ‘over-working’ a piece. Now they seem to talk about stopping too soon. People may stop too soon because they become attached to one section of a piece and don’t want to ruin it.
“Experimental work takes care of the fear of the blank sheet of paper. When you don’t think about the end product in the beginning, you have a lot more freedom. ‘I never met a color I didn’t like’ applies here. When you start out just mixing the colors, it’s not nearly as intimidating as looking at the blank paper.”
Linda Meyer-Wright has become the contact person for the Experimental Artists by default. “Probably because I am the pushiest one,” she laughed. She has been painting for only four years.
After working for county social services in Cincinnati for thirty years, she decided to take an early retirement with her husband, Larry. “I really wanted to go to Santa Fe, but we would have been able to afford a used trailer at best,” she joked. “Also, Larry pointed out that most of our family and friends were in the Midwest. I decided if we stayed in the Midwest, I wanted to live in Bloomington or Brown County.” They looked in the hills of Brown County and found their current house five years ago.
Surrounded by an extensive deck, the house boasts plenty of windows looking out to the forested acreage. “This is probably why I became an artist,” Linda gestured toward the house. Her colorful decorative paintings feature fish, animals, flowers, butterflies, nature and people. “It sounds corny, but I paint what makes me smile and gives me joy,” she said. “The paintings are usually very light but sometimes have an under-current—a friend of mine says it’s ‘gut-wrenching humor.’”
The Experimental Artists of Brown County held their first exhibition at Gallery North on the Square in Bloomington last year. Just this last month, they were featured at the Brown County Art Gallery. Their goal of having at least one group show each year keeps their work-sessions productive and allows the public to see the results. As individual artists, the women exhibit at the Brown County Art Gallery and the Acorn Cottage Gallery in Nashville as well as Gallery North on the Square in Bloomington. For more information about the group call Linda Meyer-Wright at 812-597-5974 or e-mail Linda@wrightathomestudio.com.