Bill Long: Through The View
At the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, we spend a lot of time with children and adults thinking about and discussing what we see. Bill Long’s illustrated book Through the View consists of a series of 32 colorful oil paintings that explore the idea of careful observation — with regard not only to what we as viewers see, but also to what the characters that “people” the pictures are looking at.
The painting Birdhouse begins the series with a close-up of a quaint sky-blue birdhouse, perched on a gnarled, blackish tree. In the second painting, we seem to be inside the birdhouse, peering out alongside a bright red and blue bird as it perches on the side of its nest. Follow the bird’s eye…
The next picture features a small white barn with a cupola that sits near the edge of a field beside the ocean. Inside the barn door we can see a pig and a pile of pumpkins. The fourth image shows the inside of the barn with a large orchid-colored pig smiling at tiny piglets hiding in the heap of orange pumpkins. Through the open doorway, we can see in the middle distance the tree with the birdhouse, and farther away a hilly landscape of puffy, blue-leaved trees. On top of a hill in the middle of a peppermint-pink sky rests a tall, thin, bluish house.
To be accurate in depicting the details of each view from other sites in the story, Long made a map that pinpointed each building and view so that the sequence and the placement of all the images made sense. By the time we get to the wordless story’s final image, Birdhouse Bridge, we have been introduced to worlds within worlds and wide-faced characters of various sizes and colors. We see the birdhouse again — and much more.
Through the View takes us on a visual journey to places that seem pleasantly “realistic” and others that are fantastically imaginative and cartoon-like. This contrast is reinforced artfully in many ways: a pattern of outside views next to interiors; small creatures and large characters; and complementary colors that are carefully orchestrated within the overall theme of cool colors: green, blue, purple and pink.
Besides the whimsy, humor, and contentment expressed in these paintings, other elements appeal to all ages. Young viewers will pick up on the idea of a story or game going on throughout the series. Older viewers may compare Long’s very personal, contemporary style to familiar animated scenes and characters that hark back to early Disney movies.
Long’s interests encompass Vermont landscapes and seasons, animation, music, and garden and architectural design, and it is easy to see these influences in his art.
– Susan Calabria, Curator
Click here to download the gallery brochure for this exhibit.
Bill Long website