A Forest Hills artist's visits with the birds
by Michael Perlman
Sep 26, 2018 | 3526 views | 0 0 comments | 114 114 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“Art is the greatest mood elevator,” says Forest Hills artist Robin Amy Bass. “There are no mistakes, just creative opportunities.”

Bass’ paintings have been displayed in the neighborhood at places like Red Pipe Café and Genesis Tree of Life Yoga Studio. Now, a new exhibition, “Bird Visitations & A Couple of Cats,” is underway at Jade Eatery in Station Square until October 31.

“l always loved their food and Buddhist influence,” Bass said of Jade. “I was dining one evening when he [general manager Gigmy Bista] asked if I was an artist. Then I showed him some of my paintings, since my art studio is conveniently across the street.”

Her paintings are reflections on people she has lost in life.

“On my walks through Forest Hills Gardens, there was a cardinal that I called ‘Eddie B’ after my stepfather, and ‘Richard The Robin’ after my dad,” Bass explained. “They both passed away in 2012. My art show is an acknowledgement of loved ones who have passed.”

Her father, Dr. Richard Bass, was the founder of Forest Hills Pediatrics. The work “JB the Blue Jay” was based on the first of many sightings after her mother, Julie Berger, passed away.

“I saw an increase in real birds, stuffed birds, and bird motif wallpaper,” said Bass, reflecting on the time her mother’s health declined. “They were everywhere. She would sit in the backyard, and I would take a sketchpad and a bag of peanuts.

“At first we only fed squirrels, but one day a Cardinal appeared,” she continued. “When word circulated about the peanuts, the blue jays started showing up, which my mother loved, and she sat patiently with peanuts on her lap. l would photograph them.”

One day, she heard her mother’s voice say, “Birds! Draw the birds I send you.” She set a goal to draw a bird daily.

“They are colorful,” Bass said of her paintings. “Some have zentangle patterns, and most are drawn momentarily grounded, looking for worms, so you really can’t point to a technically correct robin or blue jay.”

Her cats, which are part of “Hairball Alley” in her home, are also depicted colorfully. Her late cat Coupurr is drawn with a halo.

“He is usually lurking in a corner in shades of turquoise and blue,” she said. “There is also a sketch of Maynard The Maine Coon, drawn in pink and lavender with shades of gray. My other three Gingers are usually drawn in shades of orange.”

Bass values colorful compositions with uplifting, whimsical subjects, and generally does not draw or paint with a message in mind.

“I don’t want to be the relative whose flowers painting is accepted graciously and ends up in the attic,” she said. “I hope people feel a positive energy or are momentarily taken away from their day-to-day problems.”

Bass uses a variety of media and embraces repurposing.

“One of my substrates is a 12-inch album cover, where the vinyl record is long-gone,” she said. “I painted over it, attached old newsprint, and repainted a cat. A tossed wood panel became a canvas for a larger owl. One of the valuable lessons I learned at a local paint night class is that you can ‘gesso’ over anything.”

From a very young age, her parents played a role in her passion for the arts.

“My father framed one of my first-grade collages and put it front and center in his pediatric office,” Bass said. “I took a crayon and tried to improve my mother’s new Matisse floral wallpaper. I was punished, but after she was sure that I saw the error of my ways, she placed a brand new sketchpad on my bed.’”

At 66, Bass reflects on her 50s as a time when art became her renewed adventure.

“I started to travel with my sketchpad and ‘art cart’ and discovered our city’s intimate classes and weekend workshops,” she said. “I made friends, found several kindred spirits, and learned new techniques that still serve me. I resurrected my love of art, which was on a backburner for many years.”
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