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Get Me to School EARLY — The Breaking-the-Rules Art of Brenda Trapani

Faithful Friends original watercolor India ink and colored pencil drawing by Brenda Trapani

Faithful Friends, original watercolor, India ink and colored pencil painting by BrendaTrapani

Getting to school extra, extra early isn’t top priority with many children, but when Walla Walla painter Brenda Trapani was a girl, she made the proverbial early bird look like a sluggard.

“When I was little, we didn’t have money for art paper, markers, or any sort of drawing or painting materials,” Trapani explains. “When I went to school in the first grade, I found that if I came in early, my very creative teacher would let us draw on paper that was piled high, and use big ink markers that were in a shoe box.

Garden Pillars, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.

Garden Pillars, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.

“I didn’t have any of those at home, but I had time, and I couldn’t get to school early enough.”

Paper, pens, markers, pencils, brushes — throughout a childhood that Trapani describes as “shy and introverted” — the artist employed her creativity not only through drawing and painting, but in finding the material to do so, and no scrap of paper — especially the highly prized backs of used envelopes — escaped her.

“It has taken over 40 years for me to throw away an envelope or paper with a blank side, without habitually pausing and thinking about the doodling and scribbling it could hold,” Trapani says, adding that those childhood scraps of paper were direct answers to prayer, although she did not realize it at the time.

“I often didn’t think that God was even listening or helping,” Trapani remembers. “I was desperate. I didn’t pray for paper; I prayed for help.

Long Walks, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.

Long Walks, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.

“I prayed for things to get better in my life and home.

“God did not force His will by preventing people’s bad choices, but He gave me a way to escape — a way to cope — a way for things to be better for me.”

In fourth grade, Trapani’s interest in art solidified into a long-term, lifetime passion as she found herself in the classroom of teacher Anne Bullock, who created pottery and paintings founded in the skills of ancient, indigenous people. To a young girl, Bullock’s encouragement was life changing:

“Not only did she read  to us wonderful, insightful, imaginative and compellingly deep stories, she encouraged us to do the same.

Quiet Dwellings Peaceful Livings, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.

Quiet Dwellings Peaceful Livings, original watercolor, India Ink, and colored pencil painting by Brenda Trapani.

“Write! Read! Draw! Speak! Express yourself! Share! Make a big deal out of simple things! Tell your story!”

Telling that story is something Trapani has been doing ever since, both through her artwork — which encompasses watercolor, India ink, colored pencils, and oil pastels — as well as through her “day job” as a massage therapist, a skill she has practiced for the last 27 years.

“Like art, massage is a quiet, sacred type of work,” Trapani says.  “People often hold their stories, memories, traumas, and joys inside. Massage can help get the bad effects of pain and trauma out.

“Art can do this as well.”

The Memories of This Lifetime, original watercolor, India ink, and colored pencil drawing by Brenda Trapani

The Memories of This Lifetime, original watercolor, India ink, and colored pencil drawing by Brenda Trapani

Because of her own challenging past, and the influence that adults like Bullock had upon her, Trapani donates her time and talent to the lives of others, and has taught art to children and teens in public and private settings, including the “Action Zone” drop-in care at the YMCA. She marvels at the impact that doing art has upon children, especially those she describes as being “sweet, but troubled.”

“I am reminded that art is a gift from God. It may not seem like an answer to a hurting child’s prayer, but since the family often isn’t well, and God does not force his will on people, God still hears the cries of the children.

“Even if they do not see it then, like myself, hopefully (they) will see God sent them powerful teachers, kind grandparents, at least one dependable parent, a cool college kid to look up to.”

If there is any statement that Trapani makes in her art, it is this — that God is real, and that He hears the cries of those who hurt. Another statement she makes is that there is no inflexibly right or wrong way to do things — people frequently comment that she uses paint, ink, and pens “incorrectly” — and it’s no use letting the perceived or potential criticisms of others get in one’s way.

As she tells the young people she teaches, if they have a dinner plate to put blobs of paint on, some wads of paper towel for a brush, and some scraps of paper — even the backs of envelopes — they can create art as unique as they are themselves.

“I feel sad when people say, ‘I wish I was artistic!’  or, ‘I don’t have any talent!’ That’s nonsense!”

And that’s commonsense encouragement from someone who knows how to draw — quite literally —  the most out of the back of a used envelope.

Wenaha GalleryBrenda Trapani is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA from Tuesday, September 22 through Saturday, October 17. Many of the works in Trapani’s Event were created using watercolor paints, India inks, and paper given to her by David Bullock, after the death of his wife, Anne Bullock, in 2014. “She was, and still is, in the lives of many of her former students,” Trapani says.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

Ring Handled Vessel, pottery sculpture by artist Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery.

Celebrating the Extraordinary of Ordinary — Anne Bullock’s Raku, Stoneware, Pottery and Multi-Media Art

 

Ring Handled Vessel, pottery sculpture by artist Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery.

Ring Handled Vessel, pottery sculpture by artist Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery.

Woven baskets and clay pots — these humble vessels have been used by ordinary people throughout history. And although they have been and still are a major factor in the daily lives of many, humble vessels are frequently overlooked and discounted in the worlds of both academia and fine art.

Corn Box potter sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

Corn Box potter sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

It is the rare, sensitive eye that sees the value of the prosaic, and Anne  Bullock, a Walla Walla mixed media artist who, until her death in 2014, celebrated the history and culture of the Plateau people, recognized and respected the expertise and creativity of Pacific Northwest, Native American artisans.

“Anne always worked from a place of deep spiritual meaning,” her husband, David Bullock, remembers. “She found meaningful inspiration in the way these skilled designers used materials at hand in environmentally sound ways to create beauty as well as function.”

Anne’s interest in indigenous baskets took her throughout the region, as she explored the exhibits of the Wanapum Heritage Center Museum, Maryhill Museum, The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, Sacajawea State Park, Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, The Northwest Museum of Art and Culture,  the Fort Walla Walla Museum, and numerous other historical locations.

Blue Vase pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

Blue Vase pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

“Vessels are a metaphor for my life and work,” Anne said in her artist statement. “I’m impressed with how early Native American Indian artisans worked with indigenous ‘of the earth’ materials. The gifts of the earth were revered; only what was needed was taken.”

In the spirit of the people she admired and honored, Anne worked in multiple mediums, both two- and three-dimensional, primarily in pottery, but her skills, like her interests, extended a wide range.

“She worked with charcoal, colored pencil, pastel, acrylics, and mixed media assemblage,” David says. “She also augmented her art with work in bamboo, wood, stone, wool, and paper.”

Untitled pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

Untitled pottery sculpture by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

A most outstanding piece, remembered by artist friend and curator of Anne’s work Colleen Sargen, is “Earth, Wheat, Fire,” consisting of 36 tiles which needed to be precisely placed at the former Willow Gallery in Walla Walla, WA, during Anne’s Interwoven Exhibition there in 2010.

“She impressed wheat, other flora objects to honor the earth, bark of trees lost in the Walla Walla wind storm of 2007, and specific items such as sand dollars carefully placed, to honor individuals dear to her who have passed on,” Sargen says.

Adding especial interest to the installation was that the tiles were still being created during the week that Sargen was installing the show. “Because the tiles were still smoldering in the fire pit, the fire needing to extinguish naturally, we waited, realizing it would be the last piece installed!” Sargen recalls. But the wait was worth it.

Plateau Series Relief on Panel by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

Plateau Series Relief on Panel by Anne Bullock at Wenaha Gallery

“It is a stunning work, and Anne’s wish was that it be placed in a health care facility.”

These wishes are completely in line with who Anne was, Sargen continues, describing her friend and colleague as “so very tender hearted, it seemed that she herself suffered for the pain of others and actively took steps in daily life to ease pain and bring peace.” One means by which Anne accomplished this was through the March of Peace events that she organized in 2008, involving community members in the creation of small, clay “pinch pots” that were placed in an outdoor art installation at the Walla Walla Foundry’s sculpture garden.

David explains, “Anne sought every opportunity to involve community in her art, in ways such as attaching prayers to her bamboo prayer walls, tying personal mementos to a community memory strand, and even using puzzle pieces from second-hand puzzles to make vessels.”

Throughout Anne Bullock’s life, and during the 38 years she worked and created in Walla Walla, community was a driving factor. Whether that community consisted of the town in which she was living, or the memories of the people who had lived in the area centuries beforehand, she devoted her energy, her skill, and her art to acknowledging and honoring the contributions of ordinary, every day people:

“I am compelled to tie, bind, glue, blend, melt, carve, coil, weave, overlap or somehow piece together media in any way materials allow or dictate,” Anne’s artist statement outlines her deep-set beliefs.

“Integrating materials through these processes gives voice to my themes of honoring the earth, its resources, and inhabitants.”

Wenaha GalleryAnne Bullock’s collection of two- and three-dimensional work is the Art Event: Pacific Northwest feature at Wenaha Gallery from February 23, 2015 through March 21, 2015 at Wenaha Gallery’s historic Dayton, WA location, 219 East Main Street.

“Anne had a special connection with the Wenaha Gallery for many years, and I hope this showing of her work here can honor that connection and provide her community of friends the opportunity to remember and appreciate her creative endeavors.” — David Bullock

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.