Oil and wood: husband and wife artists in residence show their work
He likes chainsaws, she likes trees, together Sarah and Patrick Vandenberg make the perfect couple.
The Vandenbergs are the current Masterworks' artists-in-residence and will be putting on a dual show of Mrs Vandenberg's oil painting and Mr Vandenberg's wood carvings.
In their normal lives back in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada, Mrs Vandenberg is a high school art teacher; Mr Vandenberg is a tree surgeon and volunteer firefighter.
Their passions are art, travel and the outdoors.
Mr Vandenberg trained in wilderness survival in Finland, and is qualified to take people on hikes and treks through the Canadian wilderness.
“We are really into nature at home,” said Mrs Vandenberg. “We live in Canada and we have these vast expanses of open areas and forests around us. I feel like while we have been in Bermuda we have been looking for things that remind us of home, or connections between Bermuda and Canada. I think in my work you might see more of a sense of space than in some other work. I am more influenced by nature in Bermuda than by the architecture in Bermuda, although it is beautiful.”
While here, Mr Vandenberg has been working solely with Bermuda cedar donated by various people in the community. He uses a small professional chainsaw to shape down the wood and then uses files and rasps to work it more finely into the shape he envisions.
While he works he pays strict attention to safety and uses steel-toed boots, kevlar pants, ear protection, glasses, a face shield, gloves and other bits of protective gear. He has been carving since he was seven or eight years old. His job as a tree surgeon gives him access to many different types of wood to use for his art. But, he said, nothing in Canada is like Bermuda cedar.
“Bermuda cedar is a really beautiful wood,” he said.
“It is neat to watch Patrick work and handle different trees differently,” said Mrs Vandenberg. “Cedar reacts differently on the direction of the cut. If you try to cut it the wrong way a big chunk is liable to fly off. If you cut it with the grain it cuts very smoothly. It can be explosively chippy at some points. You have to pay attention to what you are doing.”
While in Bermuda, Mr Vandenberg has been hanging out with veteran Bermudian sculptor Chesley Trott and getting advice from him about the proper way to handle cedar.
Mrs Vandenberg said she had seen her husband's work style change a little in response to the Bermuda cedar.
“White cedar is very common at home and it lasts a long time,” she said. “I feel like the Bermuda cedar is so precious that you have to treat it properly. I have seen Patrick's carving change because of the cedar. He has to put a lot of care into it because it is so valuable on its own.”
She said her own oil painting has also changed in response to the Bermuda environment.
“My art is about mostly exploring scenes that are natural and timeless,” she said. “I have done a portrait as well and some figurative work but I wanted to focus on the landscape and the natural beauty of things here. I have been learning some things about oil painting, such as how to deal with Bermuda's humidity and how to mix different glazes in this climate. I also had to buy a different colour palette for Bermuda.”
The couple have been married for a year-and-a-half. They met in high school where, according to Mrs Vandenberg, her husband was “the mysterious older man”. After she finished teacher training college they lived in New Zealand for two years. They are now based in Canada again. They first heard about Masterworks while visiting Bermuda two years ago.
“While we were here we went to a Masterworks art opening for one of the artists-in-residence,” said Mr Vandenberg. “I was interested.”
While in Bermuda, the Vandenbergs have been giving workshops for Masterworks and have also gone to different schools to talk about their art. Their art show opens Friday at 5.30pm in the Rick Faries Gallery at Masterworks in the Botanical Gardens.
Useful website: www.bermudamasterworks.com.