Take a tour of artist Cynthia Wick's open studio in Lenox

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PHOTO GALLERY | Cynthia Wick's Open Studio

LENOX — As an executive for companies that produced movie marketing materials in New York City and Los Angeles, Cynthia Wick needed to capture the essence of feature films in limited amounts of space and time. Nearly 20 years later, Wick is still synthesizing narratives, but now she's doing so in the Berkshires with a paint brush and canvas.

On Thursday, June 15, Wick opened her home studio in Lenox to the public, displaying 22 paintings of trees that were inspired by the woods behind the home she and her husband, Channing Gibson, bought in 2008 after moving from Los Angeles. The exhibition, "Into the Woods," is available to view on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. throughout July and by appointment, providing art lovers with the chance to wander into an abstract forest.

"You're offering them not the whole story, just something that you hope will intrigue them enough to want to spend more time in front of it and examine it," Wick said during an interview at the studio on a recent Friday afternoon.

For example, in a mostly blue-and-black piece near the studio's entrance, a branch looks like a hand, leaving the viewer to wonder about the relationship between the depicted trees.

"To me, they're having a dialogue. Those trees are talking to each other, or they're dancing with each other," Wick said.

Though narratives have always been vital to Wick's creations, her journey into the abstract is a diversion from her past. As a marketing executive at 20th Century Fox and a creative director at an advertising agency, Aspect Ratio, during the 1980s and 1990s, Wick could rely on scenes from movies such as "Die Hard" and "The Mask" to convey meaning. Moreover, the artwork she had created as a young artist living in New York City and as a stay-at-home mother during her spare time in Los Angeles had tended to be small figure paintings or illustrations.

But when Wick arrived in Lenox, she found herself staring out the window at the trees that tower over her sprawling lawn, intoxicated by the shifting light, shadows and colors as the seasons changed.

"This little inkling kept saying, 'God, the trees — the trees are like people. Paint the trees.' And then I just kept not listening to it," she said.

In 2012, a visit from Ellen Rand, the founder of the Art 101 gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y., gave her the encouragement she needed. Wick had emailed Rand, expressing her appreciation for Art 101 and providing a link to her website. Rand, who died in 2016, responded positively to Wick's work and eventually traveled to the studio to see it in person.

"Her guidance [was] so valuable to me because you're in this studio, painting by yourself, and in those days, I didn't know a painter here," Wick said. She had left behind a number of friends in Los Angeles who were artists, including Anne Ward.

"I was so thrilled for her but heartbroken, of course, for us," Ward said.

Ward and Wick have continued to talk at least once a week, but Wick has gradually built up a community of local artists she trusts to assess her work. One of them is Anastasia Traina, an East Chatham, N.Y., resident who was impressed by the exhibit's ability to capture the woods' fairy tale spirit.

"It's a magical place. You could meet a monster or meet a prince," Traina said.

Wick is aware that her work may not be well received by some.

"In a lot of painting circles, when you talk about emotion, it's a dirty word. And anything that smacks of being sentimental, people will say, 'Oh, the paintings are sentimental,' whatever. But I actually go straight into the guts of emotion," she said.

Ward said Wick's fearlessness has been apparent since she met her about 12 years ago, so it's natural that her art represents this quality. In this exhibit, the paintings' varying sizes drew Ward's attention when Wick gave her a virtual tour of her studio.

"Maybe from her Hollywood past, there's a piece of Cindy that's so bold," Ward said.

Wick is certainly not a wallflower. Since moving to Lenox, she and Gibson have become heavily involved in local politics (Gibson is a selectman). Wick has also actively opposed Donald Trump's administration, creating political cartoons on her iPad that have been published by The Huffington Post.

But Wick's studio is a testament to her ability to adapt to and relish her environs. It is the convergence of her two transformations: from figure painter to abstractionist and from big city marketing executive to small town artist. She points out that the project would have been impossible without the help of a local architect who built the space and the support of her Berkshire County friends.

"It's as much about the people as it is about the paintings and me," she said.


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