In a fast-paced world filled with daily stress and anxiety, local visual artist Jaime Byrd creates a welcoming calm and stillness amid the mayhem.
With her latest exhibit, Big, Bold and Colorful at Trackside Studios in the River Arts District, Byrd lends viewers her artistic lens, giving audiences the chance to see the world through her perspective. And with the aid of augmented reality technology, she creates an interactive scene beyond the canvas with serene nature sounds and magical movements of color and shape.
The Los Angeles native further enhances the experience with her distinct selection of colors as well as many layers of oil paint and cold wax to create the high-textured, vibrant expressionistic landscapes she’s become known for.
“It’s all about subtle stillness for me and taking people to places I have been or like to be,” Byrd says. “I want to express and dive deeper into these landscapes.”
Inspired by downtime
Though painting was not Byrd’s first career move as an artist, the multimedia creator has devoted her life to the arts.
In the early ’90, she began her own jewelry business, Byrd Designs, in Northern California, before relocating to Oregon. Near the end of that decade, her sister-in-law moved to Asheville and encouraged Byrd and her husband, Adam Cohen, to visit.
“We loved it,” Byrd says. “It was cute and quaint and had mountains, so we moved.”
After working more than two decades in jewelry, Byrd transitioned into filmmaking, spending years on various film sets for music videos, commercials and documentaries.
“My love of storytelling drew me toward filmmaking,” she explains. “I just really like that connection with folks.”
The artist ultimately created her own production company, Blind Lyle Films, in 2005 with her husband. For over a decade, the couple traveled the world, filming and editing documentaries for nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations throughout Southeast Asia and Central America.
Her extensive experience working with cinematography allowed her to learn about composition and lighting, she explains, which carried over to her painting.
By March 2020, COVID-19 put all future film production projects on hold. “All the film sets were closed,” Byrd says. “I had nothing to shoot or edit. Since I couldn’t go out and film anymore during the pandemic, I decided to paint more.”
From paint to pixels
At first glance, Big, Bold and Colorful features vivid, sprawling landscapes, ranging from the misty peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains to quaint, charming farmhouses standing in isolation, surrounded by dense, distant woodland.
However, the physical paintings are only one aspect of the art exhibit. Through the free online app Artivive, Byrd introduces the use of augmented reality technology to transform these extraordinary scenes into magical multisensory pieces.
Once the app is activated, water begins to cascade down shimmering waterfalls in one piece. In another painting, the blazing sun sets into a luminous moon as birds fly, fish swim and cars zoom across canvases.
Along with movement, participants can hear the sounds of cicadas conversing on a hot summer day, children laughing as they play in a park in France, birds chirping and people chatting over coffee in a café in Portugal.
“When I first started this, the whole point was to bring some tranquility, peacefulness [and] some stillness,” Byrd says. “I felt like people were so stressed [during the onset of the pandemic] and I thought that’s what they needed. It’s what I needed.”
The artistic process
Byrd chooses not to formally plan or map out her paintings, relying instead on intuition.
“I’m painting from memory and how I feel, using expressionism techniques,” she says. “It’s my version of what I remember.”
Byrd begins each painting by writing a positive affirmation, which is then covered by 20-30 layers of dried paint, taking months to finally dry.
She then takes a digital image of her painting and uses editing and special effects software to manipulate it. This is accomplished by adding hand-drawn animation and overlaying footage she has captured, essentially creating a short film lasting from 10-30 seconds that is subsequently hosted by Artivive.
Byrd says every aspect of her work, from color combinations to self-recorded soundscapes, is intentional and critical to creating the overall sense of calm.
“I definitely like sitting and just listening. It’s tranquil, nice and relaxing,” Byrd says. “If I’m going to make some AR to go with my paintings, that’s what I’m going to be expressing and diving deeper into — take you into this place where I like to be, which is just sitting and being still.”
Lynn Stanley, co-manager and a featured artist at Trackside Studios, became familiar with Byrd’s work three years ago when Byrd was juried into the Trackside family, she says.
“Her work is an amazing combination of the simple and the complex, whether the augmented reality aspect is in play or not,” Stanley says. “At first glance, there’s a small house, a few trees on the horizon, but then — colors flow in layers below, words can be faintly seen, shapes enchant the eye in subtle combinations.”
The co-managers of the gallery were initially impressed by her art and energy, Stanley says. Their admiration for Byrd has only grown as her work has evolved.
“Like most of the visitors to Trackside I’ve encountered, I had never seen nor even heard of AR before seeing Jaime’s work, and like them, I was astonished and excited by her innovative merging of physical and digital realms in art,” Stanley says.
WHAT: Jaime Byrd’s exhibit, Big, Bold and Colorful
WHERE: Trackside Studios, 375 Depot St.
WHEN: Though, Wednesday, Nov. 30. avl.mx/9fv