East Hampton artist Julie Spain received the first annual Dianne B. Bernhard Award for Excellence in Pastels for her piece Hands Creek. The competition was held in conjunction with Guild Hall’s 80th Annual Members Exhibition and overseen by Executive Director Andrea Grover.
Spain is also a New York City-based clinical psychologist and said painting helps her tell her own stories, visually, on canvas.
How does it feel to be the first winner of this award?
It feels fabulous. I am thankful and thrilled.
How did you become involved with Guild Hall?
It has been a part of our lives for the last 30 years and has become so vibrant in recent years.
What inspired your piece, Hands Creek?
When I am at the house, I am continually looking at the water from every room, every time of day and season.
Four years ago, I heard a lecture by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada at LongHouse Reserve. She is the foremost expert on Boro, which are the blue Japanese textiles that have been patched and re-patched over the years. They have a quiet beauty and depth.
I had been frustrated with the figurative oils of Hands Creek that I had been painting. I realized that the Boro captured what I felt about the water in front of the house. The colors and textures were varied and created a feeling of movement similar to Hands Creek.
How long have you resided on the East End?
In 1982, I bought a half-acre on Clamshell Avenue and built a house that is 30 feet from Hands Creek, across from where Boys Harbor was located. The setting, looking out to Three Mile Harbor, is magical.
How does your career as a clinical psychologist tie into your passion for art?
Initially, painting provided a balance to my work as a therapist. As I therapist, I listen to people’s stories and help clarify exactly what they are saying and feeling. When I began painting, I was stimulated by seeing “stories” unfold on the canvas in contrast to hearing stories.
More recently I have discovered, as in [Hands Creek], that I have enjoyed moving away from the concrete representation of what I see and creating what it feels like to me. Engaging with the properties of soft pastels and textured papers of differing weights has been basic to this more abstract work. Pastels provide the lead with their immediacy, softness, and pure color.
When did you begin your artistic journey?
My grandfather was in the clothing business and gave me boxes of fabric, which I used to create clothing and quilts. I loved working with my hands, so I then spent about 10 years doing ceramics on a potter’s wheel.
How has the East End molded your vision?
The East End is paradise — every perspective has never ending beauty.