Tag Archives: 1516 Gallery

Artist Erin Blayney

October 2, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For visual artist Erin Blayney, who grew up in the great outdoors, it’s all about light and space. She has plenty of both at her Old Market apartment that doubles as her studio.

Natural light from six large, south-facing windows cascades over her easel and houseplants. “Not only is that perfect for the type of lighting I need to do my best work, it’s healthy for my overall well-being,” says Blayney.

erinblayney2Exposed brickwork, high ceilings, and an open floor plan contribute to a sense of spaciousness. Extra-wide windowsills provide great perches for her collection of succulents.

“I love nature and the outdoors,” she says. “This apartment allows me to integrate that love into my living quarters, and not feel cramped or experience cabin fever.”

Her spot above Urban Abbey in the historic Windsor Hotel building puts her right in the thick of things. “The Old Market for me is very welcoming, unique, and nourishes a diverse group of people of all ages and backgrounds,” she says. “It’s urban yet has some aspect of a small neighborhood as well.”

A Florida transplant and Art Institute of Chicago graduate, Blayney creates figurative drawings and paintings. She previously worked as an art preparator for California museums.

Her mother preceded her to Omaha to be near a sister, and Erin followed. “My mom lives three blocks away from me, so it’s wonderful to conveniently meet for coffee or go for a bike ride together,” she says.

This self-described “people person” is drawn to the human form. She variously works from live models or photographs.

“Drawing and painting people, mostly gestural, seems to be pretty consistent for me,” she says. “It’s capturing the physicality of a person expressed through facial expression or movement. I love capturing the realness of their character, even if it’s subtle.”

Recently, Omaha restaurant mogul Willy Theisen commissioned her portrait of his granddaughter for his new Paragon eatery in Dundee.

When approaching a new work, she says, “I never know how it’s going to look, so it’s a little adventurous. If I stop thinking about what I’m doing and just let it flow, it comes out naturally. That ‘diving into it’ mindset is what I have to be in for the work to really evolve. It’s mysterious.”

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Blayney’s work is not all figurative. “Occasionally, I’ll do still life,” she says, gesturing to an in-progress oyster shell rendered in a swirl of pastels. She is contemplating an oceanic-themed series motivated by her love of the water, marine life, and nature.

“I was brought up on water. I swam in the Gulf of Mexico. So that’s in my bones.”

In Omaha, she has twice worked at Jun Kaneko’s studio (most recently in 2006 as a painting assistant). Of the celebrated artist, she says, “We had a good connection. He’s very quiet, polite, observant, receptive. He was very trusting of me. Like when I did some mixing of colors, pigments—he trusted my instincts. I’m not a ceramicist, but I felt in my natural element.”

She feels at home in Omaha, where she says, “The connections I’ve made are so important.” The same for her day job at Alley Poyner Macchietto, where she curates art shows. She admires the local art-culture scene.

“I feel the creative community in Omaha is very supportive rather than super competitive. The friends I’ve made here are very authentic, genuine, and loyal.”

She enjoys what the Bemis and Joslyn offer as well as how “smaller, contemporary, progressive galleries like Project Project and Darger HQ are pushing the envelope. I’m a huge fan of Garden of the Zodiac. 1516 Gallery is just gorgeous.”

In the spring of 2016, Petshop Gallery in Benson exhibited her portraiture work. She regularly shows in the Bemis Benefit Art Auction and had a piece in the October 28 show (she described the colorful abstract portrait as “a little mysterious looking”).

Blayney also contributed to the Old Market Art Project; hers was one of 37 banners selected (from nearly 300 submissions) to be displayed outside the Mercer Building as renovations followed the M’s Pub fire.

“It’s an abstract painting that took forever,” she says. “There’s a lot going on in it. Finally, it just came together. I collaborated with another artist in the process of painting it, and then I finished it.”

She sees many opportunities for local artists in Omaha, but there is room for improvement, too. “There’s definitely room to grow—I’d like to see even more galleries because there’s so much talent here,” she says.

Going into the fall, several commission projects were “consuming” Blayney’s time. Her projects come from anywhere and everywhere. “Lately, it’s been more people coming to me and asking either for a portrait of themselves or of a family member. I can be surprised. I’ve given my card to someone and then a year later gotten a commission. It’s unpredictable.”

Visit erinblayney.com for more information.

Encounter

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Nebraska Arts’ Passport to the World

May 6, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The 1516 Gallery is gorgeous. Newly renovated, the building is a lean, elegant structure that would be at home in the hottest districts of Vienna or Paris. The interior is deceptively spacious, but perhaps just as compelling is the luxurious guesthouse: 100 percent furnished with Nebraskan art, history, and sensibilities, suited for guests from the far corners of the world.

It would be difficult to profile Pat Drickey without first introducing the gallery, as the two are inextricably linked. The 1516 stands as the culmination of his lifelong dedication to local art. “I see it as a world-class platform for Nebraska artists, showing the good work coming from Nebraska and hopefully launching them to a bigger stage,” he says. Drickey believes the 1516 will fill a niche between “underground” galleries and “blockbuster” exhibitions at Joslyn. “I want it to become an institution like the Joslyn, or MONA in Kearney,” he explains. He envisions the 1516 bridging the gulf between Nebraska’s urban east and rural west, through partnerships like the MONA2Omaha landscape exhibit that started in late March.

Pat Drickey

Pat Drickey

At the same time, the gallery feels like a touchstone between the history of Omaha, Nebraskan art, and the greater world, made possible by Drickey’s dual nature as a deep-rooted native and world traveler. “Though I’d be happy to never set foot on a plane again,” he quips. A tour of the premises yielded a history lesson on the building and its generations of forms and purposes, as well as on the area, the nearby buildings, their owners, and their own genealogies— all effortlessly plucked from Drickey’s memory. If the gallery is a window to the world for Nebraska artists, it is supported by a deep foundation in Omaha soil.

Drickey’s own life is similarly rich. Not just a figure in the Omaha cultural world for decades (and close friends with the late Kent Bellows), he’s also a successful professional photographer. As a major name in golf course panoramas and printmaking, he’s proud of his work and deservedly so: “You know ‘Dogs Playing Poker’? Everyone does. It sold 350,000 prints. I have a print that sold 850,000.”

His work has taken him around the globe, but he has never lost sight of his love of Nebraska and Nebraskan art. “I’d go all over the world and hear about the work places like Bemis and Kaneko were doing. The good reputation they have is also good for Omaha.” With the right amount of attention, he sees little reason Nebraska artists cannot flourish on the world stage: “If you can get artists interested in staying here, there is a community ready to support them. You don’t have to wait for change; you can become the change you want.”

But what keeps pulling Drickey back to Nebraska? “The sky here, the variety of art, and the people. There’s something about people who actually touch the Earth that makes them admirable. With the way the gallery feels, it could be anywhere in the world. But I want it here.”

Visit gallery1516.org for more information.

Gallery 1516

Gallery 1516