Eyewitness: Vermont Painter Anne Cady
Vermont landscapes are traditionally rendered in a fairly monochromatic palette — shades of green — with an iconic red or white barn. Anne Cady’s Vermont has undulating hills that look like creamy pink sherbet or multicolored patchwork quilts. A barn might be blue with an orange roof, while a stand of purple trees resembles gumdrops. Magenta trees lean in the wind at the edge of an orange field. Cady’s landscapes don’t look real, yet they are recognizably Vermont. The forms and colors are ostentatious and captivating.
Cady is a tall, slender woman with shoulder-length silvery hair. She lives on a small horse farm in New Haven with her husband, Stuart, their son, Rider, and two Labrador retrievers. Warm, energetic and intensely committed to her work, Cady has three other children and five grandchildren, though she looks too young to have such progeny.
“I love to paint,” she says. “Sometimes I dream a painting. It will be vivid yet simple. The hills are like waves that I’m riding down.”
Though Cady’s work is about the outside world, it seems to come from a faraway land inside her own imagination.
During a recent visit with Cady, she is clad in a white blouse and trim pants. The tailored look belies her penchant for fantastical colors on canvas. But spending an afternoon with her reveals the drive behind her artwork.
Zipping along the back roads of Addison County, Cady points out to her visitor specific sites that have turned up in her paintings. Typically she takes numerous photographs, enlarges them and works from them in her studio. “I don’t care about time of day or place,” she says. “I am a studio painter. I tweak the photographs to create rhythm and color play … I flip hills around, don’t use perspective, letting go of rules of landscape painting,” she explains. “Place is my starting point, but color, shape and form are my driving force.”
Until last January, Cady’s studio was in her horse barn in New Haven, but now she mostly paints in a new studio in the Bristol Mill, a former grist mill. The massive beamed ceiling is the underside of six huge grain bins made from old-growth Adirondack spruce. “The rich color of the wood has found its way into my new paintings,” Cady notes. “I’d never put browns in my paintings before.”
Recent travels on the back roads of California and Southern France have influenced her newer work. If anything, it is even more daring and brazenly hued than Cady’s earlier paintings. Each work has a story encapsulated in its title, such as “Where Are You All My Golden Horses” and “From Time to Time the Balloon Man Will Reappear.”
“All my paintings are about relationships — space, color and my life,” Cady says. “While I paint, I have my own little stories growing.”
Cady’s landscapes are popular, acquired by more than 600 private collectors around the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Europe. She says she has a hard time keeping up with commissions and the demand from galleries. One of the latter is Middlebury’s Edgewater Gallery, where Cady will open a solo exhibit, titled “Anne Cady: Twenty Years,” with a reception this Friday. The show coincides with the Middlebury College Reunion Weekend, and Cady will be celebrating her own 40th reunion at the school, as well as two decades of paintings.
At the age of 15, Cady says, she started teaching art classes at her home in Darien, Ct., to neighborhood kids. At Middlebury College, she studied printmaking with David Bumbeck. While raising her four children in Vermont, Cady founded and directed the Children’s Art School, which for nearly 30 years provided art classes to children in Pittsford, Woodstock, Reston, Middlebury and New Haven.
“As a private art educator,” Cady says, “I was dedicated to providing substantive art experience to young people.” She has in turn been influenced by young people’s art. “I suppose I paint the way I do because of the way children paint,” she concedes. “They are fearless with color.”
On a tour of both of her studios, Cady tells stories about her oil paintings: “The barns and distant mountains all have a story to tell,” she says. “They are families and friends that live together in the landscape. Before a storm, the trees dance in the wind or gather together in preparation. The old farm barns stand their ground with great dignity. They have been around for a long time and deserve a setting of honor. The surrounding mountains hold and proudly protect the land.”
There is dignity as well as playfulness in Cady’s paintings. They may be inspired by children’s art, but these landscapes are in the hands of a professional. Her paintings are bold and sing with color. Some shout; some are serene. Her clean, distinct edges give order to all the wild colors.
“The children’s gift to me was to show, over and over again, the simple, colorful and expressive way they interpreted the world around them,” Cady says. “And Vermont keeps me painting.”
“Anne Cady: Twenty Years,” a solo exhibit of paintings, Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury. Reception: Friday, June 14, 5 to 7 p.m. Through June 30. edgewatergallery-vt.com
The original print version of this article was headlined "Fighter Flight"