By Rosemary Carstens
As individual atoms cluster together and bring fundamental molecular energy to everything around us, so does the creative power of a group often enhance its potential output over that of an individual working alone. It follows that a family of artists generates more innovative, exciting art than each person might on his or her own. Or at least that’s how it seems for Karen Vance; her sister, Susan Blackwood; and Blackwood’s husband, Howard Friedland.
Vance and Blackwood were born into a family of artists—painters, illustrators, sculptors, a fashion designer, and a World War II draftswoman. Art was the center of daily life and family outings. As Blackwood recalls, “Some of our most precious family times were doing art projects together.”
Vance, Blackwood, and Friedland all attended prestigious schools and continue to fine-tune their talent by studying with some of the best artists in the country. At a Taos workshop, Vance introduced her sister to Friedland. As Vance loves to say, “Their easels just kept getting closer and closer together.”
Although each painter’s work references Impressionism, their styles are very different from each other. Vance defines herself as a “contemporary impressionist” who paints primarily landscapes. “They are soft, like lace—graceful and full of mood,” says Blackwood about her sister’s work. “She has a unique method of creating translucence through layering.”
Comparing her own work, Blackwood continues, “I paint with more realism, yet I strive for softness and lost edges, with impressionistic passages. The translucent areas in my paintings are influenced by my 32 years as a watercolorist.”
Friedland, best known for his fine hand on western and European landscapes, tends to “paint a bit looser [than Karen and Susan],” he says. “Close up, viewers see many colorful brush strokes, but as they step away, the brush strokes disappear, and their eyes pull the entire painting together, allowing them to bring their own imagination and participation to the painting.” As part of an artistic couple, he says it’s “extremely helpful to have a second set of eyes on my work. Susan and I offer critiques only when asked and try not to get too offended if suggestions aren’t taken.”
Each artist in this mutual-admiration trifecta speaks enthusiastically and with enormous affection about the others. When asked what it’s like to be related to them, Vance sums it up: “Fantastic! We all have the same drive; we all love art and share it openly. We speak the same language!”
Highlands Art Gallery, Bernardsville, NJ; Astoria Fine Art, Jackson, WY; Bozeman Trail Gallery, Sheridan, WY; Saks Galleries, Denver, CO; Elk Horn Art Gallery, Winter Park, CO; www.karenvanceart.com.
Betsy Swartz Fine Art Consulting, Bozeman, MT; Highlands Art Gallery, Bernardsville, NJ; Howard/Mandville Gallery, Kirkland, WA; Montana Trails Gallery, Bozeman, MT; Walt Horton Fine Art Gallery, Beaver Creek, CO; Berkley Gallery, Warrenton, VA; www.susanblackwood.com.
Betsy Swartz Fine Art Consulting, Bozeman, MT; Highlands Art Gallery, Bernardsville, NJ; Howard/Mandville Gallery, Kirkland, WA; Montana Trails Gallery, Bozeman, MT; Walt Horton Fine Art Gallery, Beaver Creek, CO; Berkley Gallery, Warrenton, VA; M Gallery of Fine Art, Charleston, SC; www.susanblackwood.com/howardhome.htm.
Featured in November 2011.