Hygienic Art Gallery winner delves into the past and present

Left, Bryan Gorneau works on grinding metal rings that he will weld together that will be the base of a bench designed by artist Gilbert Boro, owner at Studio 80+Sculpture Grounds in Old Lyme on May 4. Gorneau won the top prize at the Hygienic Art show for a painting titled "Office," but is a sculptor and works as studio manager and welder at Studio 80+Sculpture Grounds. Photo by Dana Jensen /The Day Above, Gorneau's first-place piece titled "Office." Photo submitted

Artists are often inspired to use found objects in their work. Bryan Gorneau of Old Lyme is inspired to use found "backgrounds" in his paintings: old signs, pieces of wood and metal, magazine and newspaper pages. This is his version of a blank canvas to which he applies his unique artistic signature.

It was such a piece, titled "Office" that garnered Gorneau a first place award out of more than 100 entries accepted into "The Sixth Crossing" annual juried exhibition, now on view at New London's Hygienic Art Galleries. Janice LaMotta of West Hartford - a professional artist, curator, gallery owner, and arts educator - juried the show.

Gorneau says he was "happy and excited" to win first place in the show and, referring to his winning painting, explains that for years he'd been holding onto an old sign that only had one bold word printed on it: OFFICE. One day inspiration struck, and he painted a graphic, abstracted industrial landscape, which he describes as a "thought factory," along the length of the narrow horizontal sign.

Also accepted in the exhibit are two works in Gorneau's current series, in which he paints a socio/political commentary in oils on old newspaper and magazine pages depicting powerful historic moments. The background of "Americana" is a 1963 Time magazine cover of the famous photo of John F. Kennedy, Jr. saluting his father's casket and the background of "Two Lefts Don't Make a Right" is a front page newspaper story from later that week of Jack Ruby gunning down Lee Harvey Oswald, the prime suspect in the JFK assassination.

Gorneau is currently working on a piece for the series titled "American Graffiti," using a Life magazine cover of the 1969 moon landing.

"I'm influenced by graffiti," he says. "It's very pure; people doing art for art's sake."

"I'm a big collector of comic books and old magazines," Gorneau says. "I like American history a lot and I'm interested in the iconic value of major historic events - these pictures that are so ingrained in our heads."

Gorneau applies a clear resin epoxy over the paintings in this series that he says "encases the delicate materials, making (the work) completely archival and timeless."

He also notes that the epoxy intensifies the colors and images and makes things under it look more beautiful… and when he paints on cardboard or old newspaper he says, "I love how the epoxy turns low brow art into high brow art."

From There to Here

Gorneau was born in Old Lyme in 1981, but spent much of his childhood in Saratoga, New York. He returned to Old Lyme in 2001 to study sculpture at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts. While attending Lyme Academy he apprenticed for several years with sculptor and architect, Gilbert Boro, owner of Studio 80+Sculpture Grounds on Lyme Street, adjacent to the art school.

From 2007-08 Gorneau attended a welding program at Central Wyoming College and from 2008-10, he worked as a professional welder at Welding Works in Madison. In 2010 Boro hired Gorneau as manager and resident artist of Studio 80, where he works on his own art and fabricates Boro's large-scale sculptures.

Gorneau hadn't entered an art show in almost five years, since his work appeared in annual juried student exhibitions at Lyme Academy College, and in the first and second annual Crossing exhibits at the Hygienic.

"I was so busy working (as a welder) I didn't have much time to dedicate to my art," he says. "Gil (Boro) has been very supportive of my work. He really pushed me to enter the Hygienic show. A lot of the reason I've been doing so much art recently is that he really encourages me to do my own art."

Although Gorneau is trained as a sculptor, he says he's always enjoyed painting because "It's very freeing for me. When I paint, I don't have guidelines to follow in my head like when I'm sculpting. It's not as technical."

He would like to do more pieces in his current series that respond to more recent events, and in other countries, like the Asian tsunamis.

"Here (in the U.S.) we hardly think about how big a deal it was," he says.

But he also wants to be careful not to exhaust a series for too long and is beginning work on a new series in which he draws on steel, creating various tones - a relief of sorts.

Gorneau says his winning piece in the Hygienic show has motivated him to get more into the exhibition scene and enter more shows in the area, including the upcoming 100th annual juried exhibition at the Mystic Art Center.

So keep an eye out. We may be seeing a lot more of this talented young artist as he continues to explore the world - past and present - through his intriguing artwork.

"The Sixth Crossing" continues through May 21 at Hygienic Art Galleries, 79-83 Bank St., New London. For more info and hours, call

(860) 443-8001 or online visit www.hygienic.org.

Award Winners in 'The Sixth Crossing' Annual Juried Exhibition at Hygienic

1st place: Bryan Gorneau, Old Lyme

2nd place: Sue Parish, Quaker Hill

3rd place: Eleanor Tamsky, Mystic

Honorable mentions: Gordon Bell, Mystic; James E. Case, Old Lyme; Richard Davis, Ivoryton; Tina Lyman, Stonington; Susan Madasci, Ledyard (Stonington studio); Mark Patnode, New London; Elisha Schauer, Groton; Ken Steinkamp, Mystic.

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