The Berkshire Eagle, Thursday, January
She paints what she sees
By Felix Carroll, Special to The Eagle
Maybe when she was a software engineering
manager, Marguerite Bride could look at a pretty blue sky and simply see a
pretty blue sky, then get on with her day.
But nowadays, now that she's a painter — an accomplished one, with a steady
stream of commissions and accolades — she may see some cerulean up there,
maybe a little cobalt. It'll all stop her dead in her tracks.
"I look at everything I see now in terms of
color and composition," says Bride. "If it's a curse, it's a wonderful curse
to have. You start appreciating beauty in things that maybe you would have
taken for granted before."
Like, maybe, a dumpy old wheelbarrow
leaning up against a building. She can gaze at it nearly to the point of
inappropriateness. She could take 40 photos of it for reference for a
She's drawn by the shadows, mostly. Nothing
is better than harsh shadows, says Bride, who stepped out of the shadows
of the Berkshire art scene seven years ago to become among the region's
most well-known watercolorists.
"In the shadows," she says, "that's where
you get the life."
Bride is the featured artist this month and
next month in two separate exhibits presented at Banknorth in Great
Barrington, sponsored by the Sheffield Art League.
She delights mostly in the brick and mortar
of human history. Of the 300 or so paintings she's done, many are familiar
images to any Berkshirite — old mills in Lee, street scenes in Lenox, old
barns from one end of the county to the other — as well as scenes from
Tuscany and points throughout New England.
There's nothing sentimental or over
romanticized in her artwork, most of which is rendered in earth tones. She
simply finds contentment — even amusement — in the hard, right angles that
farmers and factory owners long ago so strong-mindedly appended to these
soft, curving hills. Her painting are her sign of affection.
"I think they have life," says Bride, 58,
who lives in Pittsfield. "Especially when they're old or dilapidated. They
have a history, and that's what I like about them. They are like living
things. When I'm painting them, I get to know them.
"The other thing is, I just like the
texture of painting buildings," she says. "More than painting leaves or
grass or flowers. I like the rough stuff of rocks and stone and brick."
That puts her squarely in the building
trades, so to speak. Indeed, much of Bride's success has come in the form
of painting house portraits on commission, which can cost anywhere between
$500 to $1,200.
Not bad for someone who all but abandoned
art by the ripe old age of 17.
Bride, who was raised in Rhode Island, grew
up drawing with her mother, who had planned a future education for her at
the Rhode Island School of Design.
"But when I was a junior in high school I
had a change of heart. I said, "I don't want to draw anymore. I want to
make some money. And I want to marry a doctor," she says, with a laugh.
She went to nursing school. She worked as
an RN. She never married a doctor. She married a navel officer-turned
writer, instead, named Ed Bride, who served as a writer, editor and
publisher of Computerworld and founding editor of Software Magazine before
going into public relations consulting for high-tech companies.
The two had three children. Seeing her
kids' college tuitions looming in the future, Marguerite changed career
paths again. She got an education in computer science. She worked in the
computer industry from 1986 to 1994.
Then, in 1994, the Brides bought an old
farmhouse in Lenox and soon moved out here fulltime to escape what she
calls the "rat race" of eastern Massachusetts.
That's when Bride decided it was time for
another change. She wanted to return to art. She started taking classes at
Interlaken School of Art in Stockbridge, now called IS 183.
"I realized I didn't even have the basics,"
recalls Bride. "I drew a lot as a kid, but I didn't have the basics.
"Oh boy, I knew what a primary color was,
but I didn't know how to mix secondary colors, tertiary colors or any of
those things. I didn't even know whether I should be doing oils or
acrylics or watercolors. I knew nothing about it. I didn't know the
principals of perspective."
So she went to Berkshire Community College
and eventually took every art course they offered.
"Once I cleared them out of all of their
courses, that's when I said, "OK, time to get to work," says Bride.
She painted for several years, keeping her
work to herself, until, as she says, her style found her. Then, one day in
1999, she got up the nerve — barely. A new gallery was opening up in Great
Barrington called Berkshire Dreams, which has since closed. Bride walked
in, showed them her work, and they liked it a lot.
Soon her works were hanging, publicly. And
soon she was selling pieces, which gave her newfound confidence.
That's when she began to do house
portraits, too. And that's how she found her niche doing buildings.
In 2001, Bride competed for, and was
awarded, the commission for eight paintings of historic scenes, which are
now on permanent public display at the Shrewsbury headquarters of Central
One Credit Union. She was on her way.
Berkshire Frame Works continues to display
her original paintings, as well as reproductions. Original works can also
be seen at Boulderwood, in Lenox.
Big sellers for her include her many
Tuscany scenes. She's been painting Tuscany for years and has had two
separate shows of that work.
Oddly enough, she's only been to Tuscany
once. It was just after 9/11, and she and her husband had a
"life's-too-short" moment and got on a plane. She took hundreds of
photographs, which have since become subjects. Again, lots of buildings.
Like the Berkshire buildings, they are mysterious. They don't so much
stake a claim upon the landscape as become an integral part of it, an
indomitable truth, like the passing of time.
Is there something she's trying to
communicate in her work?
"No," she says, "I just love to paint. I
have reached a point in my life where it has become something I absolutely
love to do. I paint what I like to see, and usually it's something that
makes me happy."
As for the Banknorth show, this month
features Bride's local scenes, including the old Mahaiwe Theater in Great
Barrington and images depicting the beauty of northern Berkshires and
nearby New York. The feature in February will be a selection of paintings
from her Tuscany collection.
Bride is a board member of the Sheffield
Art League, which has a membership of more than 250. She also provides
technical and publicity consultation to other artists interested in
promoting their work. She uses her high-tech skills to help many of them
start their own Web sites and get their work in digital format.
"There's such an abundance of good artists
out here," says Bride, who moved from Lenox to Pittsfield last year. "I
made a lot of nice artist friends."