Lucia Mulder

“This exhibit demonstrates the depth and range of skills present in Berkshire's arts faculty.”

The Warren Family Gallery

The Warren Family Gallery opened this year with a homegrown exhibit. Naturally Curious: Paintings by Brandi Dahari and Photographs by Dom Sayler, features work by two members of the Arts Department at Berkshire. Nature, a source of inspiration for both artists, features prominently in both Dahari’s and Sayler’s work, and taking in the show is like a silent meditation on the beauty and mystery of the world around us.

Both artists are working in media that they aren’t known exclusively for, at least at Berkshire. Dahari, whose landscape paintings are done in acrylic, teaches ceramics, while Sayler teaches sculpture and is the Theater Department’s technical director.

“This exhibit demonstrates the depth and range of skills present in Berkshire's arts faculty,” said Arts Department Chair Paul Banevicius. “Here, Dom shows his talent as a first-rate photographer. And while much of Brandi’s work with students involves teaching ceramics, she is also an accomplished painter. Our faculty's passion for the arts transcends any particular medium or style or specific discipline,” he explained. 

Q & A With the Artist: Brandi Dahari 

Q: Is there a piece in the collection you are most proud of?
BD: For me, each piece is like its own journey so it's difficult to pick a favorite. That said, I am still enjoying the use of background layers peeking out in some pieces such as Millpond and the branch in Raven.  I'd like to play with that more moving forward and working big was really fun, too.

Q: Why did you choose to work with acrylic for this collection/series?
BD: I chose to work with acrylic because I wanted to work outside for many of my landscapes and, with a hectic family life, I needed a quick-drying medium. I also wanted to play with hidden layers of color, and acrylic seems to lend itself to this more easily to me than oil paints.

Q: What inspired you to become an art teacher? 

BD: When I graduated with a B.A. in Fine Arts, I found a job as the art director of O2B Kids in Gainesville, Florida. I found I loved sharing new techniques, artists, and ideas with kids and seeing what they could do with it. I also felt like I didn't necessarily have a message that I needed to get out in the world, but rather wanted to give kids a voice to explore their own experiences. If done mindfully, making art is incredibly liberating and really gets us out of our heads into a very different mental and emotional space. What greater gift could I give the world than to open the door for others to experience the joy that I feel when making art?

Q: What guides your work? 

BD: I’m fascinated by the vibrational energy within all things. I try to capture that feeling of aliveness, of shimmering colors and layers of meaning, the seen and the unseen, in each of my paintings. I want to give a singular moment, a fleeting impression of nature, as a gift of spirit.

Q & A With the Artist: Dom Sayler

Q:  Is there a piece in the collection you are most proud of? 

DS: I am very proud of Aftermath because it captures the unique early morning light on one of my favorite rivers. By using a wide-angle lens, I was able to put the viewer squarely in the face of the rushing, cold, winter river, and I think it really conveys a sense of danger but also one of acceptance.

Q: What do you think is most important to consider when shooting pictures of nature?

DS: Whenever I am in the natural world, I think about the thousands of tiny stories happening around me. Some seen and some unseen. In my photos of single subjects, it is very important for me to capture one story in my photography. It can be very clear or very open to interpretation, but it ultimately needs to show a sense of narrative. In my landscapes, I am looking to share what was in my head emotionally and mentally in that moment in time and place.

Q: What do you enjoy most about photography?

DS: Photography is a great way for me to look closer at my surroundings. My macro and landscape photography force me to focus on one thing and try to capture it. It is a mix of really being present and technical camera work. I love simple solutions to problems with lighting or subjects at night. One of my favorite photos, Clem, was taken using a flashlight stuck in the mud underneath a large leaf with a towel draped over the bushes overhead. I was able to isolate my light source in this case, and really highlight the beauty of my subject, a grey tree frog. 

Q: What guides your work?

DS: My work is guided by an appreciation for the places we live in and see every day. I use photography to draw out the idea that every visit to “the Mountain” is a new and unique experience. I hope that this collection of photographs reminds viewers of their own experiences, both good and bad, and how the natural landscape informs and reflects the calm and chaos of everyday life.