How to Paint a Postcard from a Post-Katrina Flood
The flood that devastated the Northeast last year had an effect on America’s painting industry.
“It was a watershed for all of us,” says painter Paul S. McBride.
“You have a new breed of artists who came into the art world, and it was all about the water, and how you paint with the water.
You’re painting on the shoreline, but it’s also on the riverbank.”
McBride has been a master at the craft of postcards, and he has worked for the National Gallery of Art since 1993.
Today, he paints about 1,200 postcards each year, all in his native Rhode Island.
But this past summer, the National Weather Service predicted another big flood, this time a Category 4 storm.
McBriens work in New York City, where the storm hit hard, was severely damaged and the flood was far more deadly.
As the storm roared toward the city, McBride was forced to work overtime.
He painted postcards from the flood.
“I was at the gallery, and the painting had a huge impact on me, and I started to feel the pain,” he says.
“What it’s like to be in the art scene, it’s not so much about the painting itself, it was about how you live, and where you are.”
The flood, which McBride calls a “catastrophe” and a “life-altering experience,” was a turning point for the painter.
He decided that painting was his “calling card.”
In doing so, he opened himself up to the challenges of rebuilding his art and family.
For him, it made sense.
“My family’s been destroyed,” he recalls.
“They’ve lost everything.
I’ve been in the same situation as they’ve been.
We’re both very wealthy.
We have a beautiful home, but I’ve never been in trouble with the police.
I’m not going to go into debt.
I can survive and keep doing this, but now it’s on the back burner.”
As for what to do with his money after the flood, McBrie is still considering his options.
He’s also been asked about painting for museums, as a way of trying to find art appreciation in the post-Katineau era.
The flood had also brought out new interest in the work of McBride’s friends and colleagues, including art historian and painter Daniel P. Dennett.
“We were all trying to figure out how to survive in the world, because the world had changed,” says Dennett, a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
“A lot of the work we were doing had to be done in the public sphere, and now, in the climate that we’re living in, we need to make it public, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
What to paint for a post-hurricane storm In addition to painting postcards with flood-damage images, Mcbriens is also working with a team of students in a project to help restore the damage from Hurricane Irene.
“This is my way of being a teacher,” he explains.
“So when I’m in the gallery or the gallery room, I’m teaching.
I teach them how to take care of their art and how to make the best out of it.”
He says that it was important to the students that he paint in public places.
“As an artist, if I’m doing something that’s not really good, I want to make sure that I get it right, so that I can teach them,” he said.
Mcbrie says he has already painted a few postcards for museums and has received several inquiries about his work, and has even received inquiries about painting in other places.
But he’s still thinking about what to paint next.
He says he’s open to working with other artists, but that he wants to make art in public spaces that he can see, touch, and understand.
“One of the things that I want is to be able to see my work in places that I wouldn’t normally go,” he adds.
“Because that’s the only way that I’ll be able enjoy it and be able relate to it and connect to it.”