Giorgio, 2020, watercolor, 7 x 8 inches
Accidentals(Bach), 2022, watercolor, 9 x 8.5 inches
First Light, 2022, watercolor, 9 x 10 inches
Dive, 2023, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches
Plant The Tulips, 2023, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches
Dream Talk, 2023, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 inches
Here But More Like That, 2023, watercolor, 18 x 24 inches
Last Day Of March, 2022, watercolor, 9 x 9 inches
You Seemed So, 2020, watercolor, 8 x 7 inches
The Gravity of Light: Maud Bryt’s Recent Work
by Jane Mendelsohn
Maud Bryt began her compelling artistic explorations as a photographer and sculptor. Influences of each medium permeate and expand the possibilities of watercolor and oil paint in her gorgeous recent work.
Awake to the character of all her mediums, Bryt investigates the simultaneous gravity and lightness of Being, conjuring both presence and absence in every piece. She poses the question: How can that be? How can we be? She answers it by exploring all manner of contradictions and oppositions: action in stillness, stillness in action, lightness in darkness, darkness in light.
Drawing from her background in sculpture she asks: How does a body stand aloft against gravity? And from her history as a photographer: How does color, or the absence of it, exist with such weight amidst light and air?
One clear influence on Bryt’s work is that of Giorgio Morandi, most evident in the quiet stillness and interiority of her watercolors. This stands out in “5 p.m.”, “Few”, “Giorgio”, and “Before I Go”, in their calm yet vibrating forms and colors.
Reaching farther back into Art History, I see a resonance in Bryt’s work with a subject that was of paramount importance to the artists of the High Renaissance: The Paragone, defined as the comparison, or in the art theory of the Renaissance, as the competition, among the mediums of painting, sculpture, and architecture for supremacy.
The question of The Paragone is: Which medium comes closest to the sacred by best depicting simultaneity? Which is the closest to the Divine? There is, of course, no correct answer, only attempts and strivings that create and evolve ever more directions in artistic expression.
Bryt’s beginnings in sculpture and photography naturally lead her to extending aspects of all these media in her newer work. How can a photograph move? She answers: As a watercolor whose drips, soaking, and drying is made evident. How can an oil painting express the gravity and three-dimensionality of sculpture? She shows us: By deconstructing and re-constructing the parts of a sculpture on a flat plane, so that images such as “Dive”, “Plant the Tulips”, and “Red”, appear at once viewed from multiple angles, including above, a vantage less often available in sculpture but made visible in the deft, vivid, complex layering of shape and color in Bryt’s oils.
Bryt’s work covers vast and deep territory and always communicates its uses of opposition and paradox in the way of a dialogue with the viewer. The pieces in this latest show recall lines of one of my favorite poets, John Ashbery. Ashbery was also for many years a part-time resident of Hudson, NY, home of the Pamela Salisbury Gallery, so his poetry seems a fitting echo.
The poem that comes to mind is Ashbery’s ‘The New Spirit’, first published by The Paris Review in 1970 and later collected in his 1972 book, Three Poems. A few lines that capture a feeling akin to Bryt’s work:
“The middle of the journey, before the sands are reversed: a place of ideal quiet.” Here it’s important to note that Bryt lives and paints part of the year on the East End of Long Island, and was raised in New Mexico, both places where light and sand mingle and measure the passage of time.
“The memory of the stain…” seems to describe the depiction of time and memory in the staining quality of Bryt’s bold yet gentle watercolors, painted quickly and then treated with paper towels or left to soak and drip.
“To formulate oneself around this hollow, empty sphere… To be your breath as it is taken in and shoved out. Then, quietly, it would be as objects placed along the top of a wall….” These lines appear to be mirrored by her translation of Being from sculpture into Morandi-like objects that breathe.
“You are my calm world. This is my happiness. To stand, to go forward into it. The cost is enormous. Too much for one life.” Bryt’s joy in making art, in capturing calm, lends her art a purity, a happiness, but always, it seems to reflect, at a poignant cost, reminding us that the work of the artist, of any person, is always “too much for one life.”
Porto Ercole, Italy
June 7, 2023
Born in New York City in 1965, Maud Bryt grew up in New York and New Mexico. She received a BA in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University in 1987 and an MFA from New York Studio School in 2014 after studying with Bruce Gagnier, Garth Evans, Graham Nickson, John Lees, and others. She has exhibited paintings and sculpture in the USA, UK, and France. Her current work is based on her perception of form, light, color, and the relationship between things, and between people. She lives and works in New York NY and East Hampton NY with her husband and near her two adult daughters, with frequent trips to visit family in New Mexico.
Jane Mendelsohn is the author of four novels. Her first novel, I Was Amelia Earhart, was a New York Times and international bestseller. Her other novels include Innocence, American Music, and Burning Down the House. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Republic, The Yale Review, and The London Review of Books, among other publications. She has written for film and theater and is at work on a new novel. She lives in New York City with her family.