New York City is still a mecca for artists the world over, and the neighborhood of Chelsea, home to hundreds of galleries, is often hailed as one of the city’s most important and influential art districts.
One of the many exciting things about living here is being exposed to all this stimulating creativity and attending art openings. What’s even more exciting is when the one-woman show at the Sears Peyton Gallery, in Chelsea, belongs to a childhood friend who grew up in Hallowell, Maine, and graduated from the Maine College of Art.
Along with a festive and colorful crowd, I was able to celebrate, Poogy Bjerklie, The In-Between, her second exhibition with the gallery. Described as “…landscape paintings, rendered both intimate and anonymous, imagined and reimagined, on dreamy, luscious surfaces,” I would add that her work has an old world, other worldly quality, which draws you in to reflect on happy childhood memories playing outdoors hoping for talking animals and fairy sightings. Her paintings evoke a response.
Poogy’s story is interesting. After graduating from Maine College of Art, where she met her husband, John, she somewhat reluctantly agreed to move to Brooklyn. Back in the 90’s, they rented a huge apartment that included studio space in what was then an AIR (Artist in Residence) building, which housed about 13 other artists.
At the time, Poogy was creating hand-painted clothing in addition to oil paintings. It was common back then for landlords to ask tenants to hold open studio weekends to showcase their art. Many artists became suspicious because more and more, landlords saw this as an opportunity for real estate developers to have easy access to view the entire building and then make an offer on the property. This wasn’t the case with her landlord.
Not wanting people traipsing through her space, she reluctantly agreed, and, instead, built a temporary wall about four feet into her studio that prevented the public not only passage into her work area but also her living space. She painted and distressed the wall a rich bronze color that captured the light and beautifully enhanced seven small paintings.
Her display caught the eye of one woman in particular during the event. After admiring Poogy’s work, she bought one painting and announced, “I’m scheduling a one person show of your work in October.” This patron happened to represent the Phatory, an East Village art gallery, still open today, specializing in contemporary art.
Every painting sold.
The rest is history.
In 2018, The Maine Museum of Art located in Bangor, part of the University of Maine, Orono, selected Poogy to exhibit her work entitled, Poogy Bjerklie, Nowhere in Particular, at one of its five separate exhibition spaces. The Museum had found her through the Sears Peyton Gallery and had been looking at her work over the years. Oddly enough, they didn’t realize at the time she was a Maine native.
Her work was displayed at the museum from January 12–May 5, 2018. Typically, artists don’t usually sell paintings at museum shows, but as luck, or should I say, talent would have it, Poogy sold four paintings to one collector.
While New York City (Queens to be exact) continues to be her primary residence, she still owns seasonal lake property in Maine where she draws inspiration from its natural beauty like so many artists before her. In fact most, if not all, her pieces in this current show were done in Maine this summer.
What makes this a particularly significant event for Poogy is that the year 2020 is proving to be an exciting time for women in the arts as museums everywhere are focusing requisitions and programming on long, underappreciated female artists.The Baltimore Museum of Art has even dedicated all its 2020 programs and exhibitions to women. There couldn’t be a better time to be recognized with a solo show.
Her journey from small town Maine to New York City and having gained entree into its high velocity art scene is notable. Surrounded by lush and graceful paintings representing years of hard work and well honed talent was profound. The vitality and enthusiasm in the room opening night was palpable.
It is inspiring to see an artist still opening her heart–still following her bliss.