Through the beginning of June, Beirut-born artist Vian Borchert will show one of her latest series of paintings at The Framer’s Choice Gallery in Gaithersburg, Maryland in a show called “Escapism.” Most of the abstract expressionist artist’s work comes from art produced during the lockdown at the start of the pandemic.
“Given our harsh reality, I became, in a sense, an escape artist, to escape into my own creation,” Borchert says of the start of the pandemic, “
Born in Beirut, Lebanon and raised in Amman, Jordan, Borchert came to the U.S. and studied fine arts at the Corcoran College of Arts and Design. She’s lived in the area ever since. At the Corcoran and later, Borchert developed an abstract expressionist style. In paintings from the mid-90s, you can see a style reminiscent of Austrian artist Egon Schiele, a protege of Gustav Klimt, known for his angular and expressive figures.
“I didn’t want to do a replica or copy,” says Borchert. “I wanted to bring in the emotion and psychological aspect, the twist of the body and the turn, [and] bring that to the viewer.”
However in 2016, Borchert pivoted to landscape painting, albeit with an abstract expressionist approach. She tells the story of how once when stopping for lunch on the road midway between Nice and Antibes, France, she was moved by the dramatic contrast between the French Alps behind her and the Mediterranean Sea in front of her.
“For me that created that switch,” she says. “I’m going to go now and do abstraction. I knew I had it in me, but I wanted to push it more.”
After a few years of working in the style, she became really productive during lockdown, she says.
“With the whole pandemic, especially when it started, the fear, the sleepless nights, it can be too much psychologically. For me, [painting] was a form of mediation — escaping, but also meditation.”
Like the moment that first inspired her pivot to landscape painting, much of the work is based on seascapes.
“I love the ocean,” she says. “And I love the sky. For me, [with] the ocean, I always think of it as a vacation time, relaxation, rejuvenation. And the sky, I also think of it as a dreamer.”
Although the work may be inspired by an actual beach, whether in the French Riviera or Solomons Island, Maryland, she enjoys how viewers leave with different interpretations of the work. She recalls seeing two strangers chat about her work at one of her own shows before lockdown last year.
“People would walk in and say ‘I really like this’ and someone, who was a stranger, would start talking, and [then] they both would start talking. I think that’s one of the joys of art — it brings people together, [and] it creates conversation and bonding.”
“Escapism” is on view at The Framer’s Choice Gallery through June 12. The gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Visit www.vianborchert.com for more information.
The Framer’s Choice Gallery: 402 Main Street, Gaithersburg, MD; www.theframerschoicegallery.com
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.