Collaboration with others and focus on a geometrical archetype of the human psyche nudged internationally known artist Berrisford Boothe ’83 to a fundamental turning point in his almost 30-year career.
“Creating this exhibit with two other minds forced me to put into practice a philosophy of ‘not-yet-ness,’ which necessitated being completely open to thoughts, impulses, and insights,” explains Boothe. “It was a tsunami of creativity—no pretensions, no expectations.”
Boothe, associate professor of art, Lehigh University, says he entered the collaboration in a state of “blindness” about its outcomes and was dramatically pulled toward a “true state of discovery.” The lack of foresight was essential to the originality of the art. “After all, if you know where you’re going, you’ve already been there.”
The 14 mixed media works displayed in the exhibit, That Which Is Necessary and Available, at the Richard A. and Rissa W. Grossman Gallery this past summer, were created in collaboration with Lorie Mongri, a Lehigh University student, and Devyn Briggs, a Maryland Institute intern.
Deliberately choosing one geometric form—the circle—as the subject for the works was the second force in play. With meaning that is universal, sacred, and divine, the circle represents the infinite nature of energy.
“The circle is the most recognized symbol—it’s fully engaged, in an improvisational way, but always looks iconographic,” he says. “Your mother’s eye is a circle. The moon is a circle. We have a genetic predisposition to understanding its form.”
Within the form, however, Boothe infused a firestorm of creativity. “The works include a tremendous amount of improvisation, play, and alchemy within a formal construct,” he says.
Boothe points to Matter Perceiving Itself (ink and acrylic on paper and panel, 24” diameter), as the seminal piece. “Its beauty is in its imperfection,” he says. “I wanted to tempt the viewer with symmetry. But the notion of center is a non-starter with this exhibit. And with this piece, there is a strong notion of straying from center.”
The exhibit’s central piece—That Which Is Necessary and Available (ink and acrylic on board, 40” diameter)—fully embraces improvisation. “The piece takes the remnants of other ideas and sews them together into a stronger idea,” he says, noting that the process mirrors postmodern architecture’s deconstructivism.
Boothe, an art graduate, holds a master of fine arts degree in painting from Maryland Institute College of Art. His works are included in public and private collections throughout the United States and South America.
Boothe recently opened a shared studio with painter Adriano Faninelli at the Easton Arts Building, where he will mentor local artists.
This desire to give back has motivated Boothe to remain connected with the College. “Lafayette shaped me in a way that is sustainable and positive,” he says. “Whenever I’m called on to be a visiting lecturer or do a community-based program, I make time for it. It’s important for us to do our best to inspire.”