Exciting work by NMH graduate William Brayton ’76 will comprise the second of three exhibitions this fall at The Gallery at the Rhodes Arts Center. The show will run from Oct. 16 to Nov. 17. An opening reception is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 20, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Brayton, a longtime resident of Conway, is an artist largely focused on sculpture and drawing. His work has been widely exhibited and published.
Brayton gravitated toward art as a student at NMH. “I found that I fit in a little better in the ceramics studio,” he says. “The art areas were always places of refuge for me. I hadn't yet chosen it as a career path at that point, but hanging out in there influenced me.”
Historically, Brayton’s work has been concerned with themes that include plant architecture, wind patterns, and nautical history. The RAC exhibition, “Torrent,” builds on his fascination with rogue waves, a phenomenon that until recent decades was thought to be the stuff of folklore. Though they remain mysterious, rogue waves are now acknowledged by scientists as waves which are greater than twice the size of surrounding waves, often sweeping in unexpectedly from directions in opposition to prevailing wind and waves.
“Torrent” will feature works inspired by a single piece that Brayton produced roughly 20 years ago. The original work, he says, “had an attention to water and the force of water.” Numerous influences conspired to get him to reapproach this work, he says, including the urging of his wife, artist Erica Wurtz.
His decision to revisit the work may have also been sparked by extensive flooding in Conway last summer. “We were the wettest town in North America for the month of July,” he says. “Where I live is up in the hills. We saw a lot of damage on our roads.”
The new work, he says, “was more of an exploration of this different form of line that I hadn't worked with in the almost 20 years since I made the original piece.” While this new series is very much related to his previous bodies of work, he adds, it also feels like a turning point. “It’s much more dense and kind of flowing and interactive.”
While the sculptures for “Torrent” integrate some metal components, native species of wood abound in many forms in the exhibit. “Some of the wood is really old, and there’s some spruce in there that came from my house where I grew up in New Hampshire,” he says. The sculptures, he notes, include maple, poplar, pine, ash oak, walnut, and a little bit of mahogany.
Drawings related to the conceptual premise of the show are also a key component of “Torrent.” Brayton believes viewers will readily make connections between the work in both media. “There’s a lot of the same moves, like with a big black mark, for instance, in the drawings,” he says. While the drawings are a separate territory, the drawing process in many ways parallels the sculpture process. “They're not illustrating sculpture,” he says. “They're an end in themselves, but they kind of run alongside, and each one kind of talks to the other.”
In addition to doing his own work, Brayton has served as a mentor to many young artists. He established a sculpture program at Hampshire College, where he also served as the dean for the School for Interdisciplinary Arts from 2004 to 2008 and is now professor emeritus of art.
The Gallery at the Rhodes Arts Center is open to the public Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.