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 Edith Rae Brown  (1942 - )

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: sculptor-abstract figurative, industry

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
REVIEW/ESSAY/INTERVIEW: Other published contributions are welcome. If you hold the copyright privilege, send to registrar@askart.com

The following is submitted by Cornelia Seckel, publisher ART TIMES

Profile: Edith Rae Brown

By RAYMOND J. STEINER
ART TIMES September 2001

I'M NOT SURE I could come up with a better descriptive phrase that would characterize the life and work of Edith Rae Brown than the title of one of her very own works, "Care of the Soul." This gracefully carved piece of subtly-veined Carrara marble, so eloquent in its understated simplicity, encapsulates not only Brown's essential philosophy but seems to capture the very spirit of her nature as well. Fittingly, she has chosen this particular sculpture to grace the invitation to her upcoming show on November 16 at the Association Du Salon D'Automne, Place de la Porte d'Auteuil Cour, Paris. I believe that she could have chosen no better representation of her aesthetics and of her personality.

Brown grew up in Flushing, New York, the most notable landmark in her modest surroundings a convent a few blocks away. Though the significance and intent of such an institution might have been far removed from either her culture or intellect, it was an encircling wrought-iron picket fence that had captured her attention. The beautifully handcrafted work that went into the design of it intrigued and teased her sensibilities, impressing on her burgeoning awareness the mysterious impact of formal elegance. It mattered little to the young girl what was enclosed by that barrier, but the knowledge that the craft of some human hand could move another human being was indelibly imprinted on her mind.

This incipient sense that form spoke directly to the spirit was reinforced by two more powerful influences on her development as a young woman: that of her grandmother and her father. From watching her grandmother (a dress-maker who designed the inaugural gown for Mamie Eisenhower) cut out dress patterns from newspaper spread out over the living room floor she learned the art of creating one's own designs from scratch, using no predetermined patterns other than what arose from one's inner vision. From her father, an upholsterer, she learned not only a similar facility for pattern-making, but, from his later turning to his true love painting the will to follow her own joy.

Little wonder, then, that the young Edie Brown would turn her attention to art and since 1981 share her discoveries in national exhibition venues; by 1993, her work would enter the international art scene in such places as Paris, The Hague, Krakow and Budapest to name but a few of the foreign cities in which her work has been exhibited. Also little wonder that the solid tangibility of that wrought-iron fence would lead her to the three-dimensionality of sculpture.

Whether figurative or abstract, Brown's creative source derives from nature, either from her own or from the dynamics of organic structure in brief, from the energies of life forms. She avoids the straight line, the angular edge or corner, seeking always the flow and arabesque of growing things (whether human or flora). Her work, like her own nature, irrepressibly affirms this life force. Although she sometimes models in clay (most often the figure), it is in stone that her greatest expression unfolds. Not only does she 'see' life entombed in stone (which for Brown is never "dead" but a living thing seeking aesthetically formal expression), but feels that by its very gravity it can preserve and carry that vital energy into the future. It is, in her words, the "dialogue" between the stone and herself that creates what others may call "art," but what she experiences as a visible reaction of her total self to that life force.

Her pieces are distillations of joy or soul which, I believe, for Brown are often one and the same concept. In effect, her sculpture becomes her homage to the mystery of life her "religion," if you will. Some of this comes across when you speak to her: there is reverence as she runs her hand over finished or unfinished stone, elation as she speaks of her work, ardor as she speaks of new projects in brief, a self-contained and contented zeal that one might easily take for spiritual fervor. If stone is her scripture, then each carving is a paean to the divine source.

Though her home reflects her wider aesthetics (a lovely art-filled house surrounded by carefully landscaped gardens and near-by fenced-in paddocks for horses) it is her studio (some miles away) that is the real extension of herself. A small gallery is the only compromise to the visitor the rest is dedicated to her passion. An upstairs studio is devoted to her work with the live model (and occasional spurts of sketching) while the downstairs area adjacent to the "show-room" gallery replete with the tools of her trade serves as her carving studio. Hand- and power-tools line the walls and fill the workbenches, works-in-progress lie scattered about, pictures are tacked up helter-skelter, a heavy-duty crane looms against a wall, and fine stone-dust covers all. In a separate room (as well as in a corner or two of the carving studio), raw stone and some wood chunks lie about (Brown likes to "live with them" for awhile), waiting for their inherent form to "speak itself" to her inner ear so that she can aid in their eventual emergence into being.

Although she makes an occasional maquette in preparation of cutting into a new stone, it is not her habit to sketch out her ideas beforehand, letting instead, the "dialogue" to naturally evolve at its own pace. In this allowing for the passage of time, Brown not only begins to realize the finished form, but, by studying the natural grains of the material, noting its characteristics and idiosyncrasies, determines (or rather, discovers) what form a particular stone or piece of wood will take. Pinned to the wall in her studio bathroom is a hand-written sign: "In this building there is all the time in the world. Time is not a concern when one loves what one is doing." Time, then, is the handmaiden of growth, a necessary ingredient for the full realization of the life force, of the fulfillment of the self. Thus, for Brown, the passage of time contains the secret of bringing "alive" the timelessness of stone.

Whereas the wrought-iron "art" of the convent fence was designed in that instance to keep one out, Brown's art is designed to invite the viewer in if one is perceptive enough, perhaps into her own inner vision but, more importantly, into one of their own. Though you might sense the joy she experiences in her work, it is her intention to make her art help you to discover your own. You are invited to do so at her latest exhibition, "Carved in Stone," which will run from September 1 through the 13th, at the National Arts Club, Gregg Galleries, 15 Gramercy Park South, NYC 10003 (212) 475-3424.

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