By Raymond J. Steiner
ART TIMES Sept/ Oct 2010
IF MULTI-TASKING is a sign of high competence, then Jamie Barthel has brought it to the level of an art form — a fine art form. Fine art painter, graphic designer, fine art framer, gallery owner/curator and director — not to mention wife and mother —she covers enough ground to intimidate the most inveterate go-getter you might come across. Yet, in sitting and talking with this seemingly ever-evolving, ever-moving whirlwind of artistic activity, she calmly tells me that “when it comes to multi-tasking, I’m not very effective, always starting and stopping projects that keep pushing forward for expression — some still waiting for my attention.” One can only wonder what else this “one-woman-band” might come up with!
An early piece of sculpture (unfortunately, no longer extant) Jamie Barthel created while still an art student at SUNY New Paltz featured a female figure (in her mind, herself) sitting amidst a grasping and pulling crowd vying from all directions for her attention. Perhaps this early image of herself — beset by contradictory and opposing forces demanding her notice — still lingers (it must, since she recalled it during our conversation), still a controlling mindset that continues to urge her forward to explore different paths.
Born in Woodstock, New York, one of America’s premiere art colonies for well over a hundred years, she grew up and went to school in an environment that literally ‘breathed’ art into the atmosphere — a set of circumstances that more than likely sealed her fate and set her on her path to an artistic career. Jamie was drawing from the outset, her father recalling a drawing she had made while still a toddler that showed an innate sense of perspective — unusual in the drawings of most pre-schoolers. Whatever the source, as with many serious artists who recall their childhood in later years, she seemed to have sensed early on that whatever it was that lay deep within needed to be shielded, protected from an outer world that might threaten it. Unlike her sister who was self assertive from an early age, Jamie was more reticent, less likely to claim her space in a larger context, content to explore that inner fount of imagination and creativity.
Still, self-expression —like truth — will out and, if she did not choose to make her physical self known, that burgeoning creative being within needed an outlet. A figure-painting class with painter Robert Crimi at the Woodstock School of Art in 1989 was the beginning of her formalizing that inner voice and this, in turn, led to her becoming a recipient of the John Pike Artist Scholarship at Onteora High School during the same year. Now on course, and securer in her sense of self, she entered SUNY New Paltz with a major in art in 1990.
It took but a few courses to realize that what was being taught bore little resemblance to what her own inner vision was prompting her to create. Her vision was one full of elegant form and vivacious color — how to bring it to life, her passion. She soon found it by augmenting her education by letting that passion flow and mature through a series of more practical (and tangible) outlets: working variously as a textile designer for Mike Farrell Designs (Accord, NY), as an embroidery designer for Stucki Embroidery (Boiceville, NY) and as a copy artist for Ulla Darni, Inc. (Acra, NY) — the last a kind of ‘proving ground’ that would serve as a major foundation for her future work of creating her own line of reverse-hand-painted glassware, this serving as the primary artform from which all of her other creative activities emanate — and, they are many. In addition to, as noted above, her glasswork, she paints — and, again, in a variety of styles and a wide range of motifs, including landscapes, a particularly charming series of mini-treescapes (some thirty 3” x 2” acrylics) that follow ongoing seasonal changes; figurative drawings (recently what she calls her “pulp series”); florals (botanicals being a major leitmotif in her chandeliers, bowls, and lamps); and fauna (the most recent a “tree frog” series that appears on canvas, tables, chairs — on almost any imaginable surface that takes her fancy).
All this, mind you, while running her gallery, Lotus Fine Art & Design in Woodstock, NY, (which, like her creative imagination, is a profusion of color and form and a variety of materials that include furniture, canvas, lanterns, textiles, crystals, wall sconces, jewelry, light-switch covers, cabinet knobs, etc.), mounting revolving artshows of guest artists, framing, exhibiting her own work, even some teaching at a local elementary school — and being a mother to nine- and twelve-year-old daughters. Lest I leave my readers with the impression that a visit to Jamie’s Gallery might boggle the mind with a plethora of sensations (it will!), there is yet an overriding harmony that governs her space — as with her paintings, viewing her establishment is an aesthetic experience that allows the eye to flow from form to color to material. Ralph Whitehead, the founder of the Ruskin/Morris inspired utopian crafts colony that he founded and called Byrdcliffe less than a mile from Jamie’s gallery (and which, incidentally, launched Woodstock on its career as an art colony), would most certainly feel that his legacy continues to tastefully live on in Lotus Fine Art & Design
Exhibiting her artwork is not confined to her own gallery space, but is finding an ever-widening market that includes not only New York (Eclectic Collector, Katonah), but also Massachusetts (Don Muller Gallery, North Hampton), Pennsylvania (Topea Gallery, New Hope), New Jersey (Studio 7 Gallery, Bernardsville; Mostly Glass Gallery, Online), Vermont (Gallery at the Vault, Springfield), Virginia (Ethel Furman and Assoc., Online), Florida (Fusion Art Glass, Santa Rosa Beach), Arizona, (Gallery of Modern Masters, Online), and Washington (Functional Art Gallery, Online). The Don Muller Gallery, in which Jamie’s work has been featured, garnered “Top Retailer Award by Niche Magazine in 2009 and 1st Place in the “Coolest Store in America” by INSTORE Magazine in August 2010. Her own work is also steadily gathering awards and recognition as she becomes more widely known across the country, one of her most prestigious being the featured artist for the 2009 International Exposition of Sculptural Objects and Functional Art (SOFA).
Jamie Barthel has rounded out her education at SUNY New Paltz with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in the Fine Arts, and there is little doubt that she has turned both disciplines to her own ends. It is more than likely that a three-year stint as Administrative Assistant at Albany Medical Center went a long way toward helping her to build a more formidable public persona. Personable and open with her clients and prospective exhibiting artists, she has learned how to let people into her creative space without fear of mishap or unwarranted intrusion. “I run my gallery the way I want,” sheconfidently told me. If once a quietly introverted teenager, she has taught herself the path to success. As she told her students in an art class she’d taught at the Woodstock Elementary School, “In this class, you have a license — a license to create what you want. There are no ‘wrong’ answers.” A lesson she has apparently taken to heart. Jamie would like to have the time to do more teaching, but has found that trying to keep up with her demanding schedule and a seemingly never-ending flow of creative urges constantly needing to be expressed leaves her little time for extras — that sculptural image she created while still in art school of a woman being pulled in opposing directions lingering in her consciousness, seemingly an enduring subtext as she continually expands her creative life.
Here is a woman who has learned how to be true to and to set free her own inner muse — and surely making the world a richer place for doing so.
(For more information about Jamie Barthel or the Lotus Fine Art & Design Gallery, 33 Rock City Road, Woodstock, NY 12498 (845) 679-2303 visit email@example.com).