GREENVILLE — The current exhibit at the historic Bear’s Mill brings back two familiar faces from the area – Marilee Pallant and Christopher Madden.
Pallant is a former English teacher at Arcanum School and Madden is an Arcanum native.
Former students and classmates, Arcanum residents and art lovers gathered in the Clark Gallery at the Mill Friday evening to meet or reunite with the artists who left Darke County but still feel a strong connection to the area.
The exhibit title, “Illuminations,” directly derives from Pallant’s description of her luminous paintings.
“Illumination can be defined as radiance, enlightenment, insight, revelation; the brilliant work produced by these two artists who retain deep connections to our community aptly demonstrates each of those exciting qualities, and much more,” said Marti Goetz, Executive Director of Friends of Bear’s Mill.
After some tearful reunions and hugs, as well as much appreciation of the artwork on display, the artists spoke to the gathered guests.
Madden went into the Army from high school and was selected for an apprenticeship at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., straight out of college, and he has been there ever since.
He spends his days locked in a secure room engraving the plates that are used to print U.S. currency.
“When someone buys one of my paintings, they’re trading me something I made for something I made,” Madden said.
He was honored by being chosen to create the official engraving of President Barack Obama, a process he said took five months to complete. A print from the engraving is on display at the Mill.
Madden said that engraving is a fine craft, but he does not consider it an art, because he does not have the opportunity to put any of himself into his work. As he nears retirement from the Bureau, he is seeking to promote the fine artist that he is as well.
Despite decades spent in the nation’s capital, with days spent in gray rooms, much of Madden’s art on display at the Mill shows pastoral views and rural influence.
Madden kept his comments short and told the crowd that the event was not really about him — it was really about Pallant.
Though the guests showed much fascination, interest and appreciation for Madden’s talk of his daily work and his fine art, when Pallant began to speak it was only the briefest of moments before the guests were rapt in her thrall.
The fans circulating the air in the close quarters were turned off so everyone could hear her quiet rasping voice as she spoke of love and home and color and beauty and embracing life.
She read poems she had written that accompanied some of her art on display, and as the air grew thicker and hotter, her listeners still encouraged her to continue.
Much of Pallant’s work on display reflected her time travelling in Bali, along with her clear influences of home and hearth.
The book of her poetry illustrated with the complementary artwork is available for sale during the exhibit, which continues through Aug. 17.
For more on Christopher Madden, visit his website at www.christophermadden-artoftheengraver.com.