David Brewster ’79 returned to Gilman for the first time in 42 years to present a thoughtful Upper School assembly in which the noted plein air artist encouraged students to strengthen their emotional intelligence through expanding their visual literacy.
“I want to demonstrate how the power of art positively teaches us how to live and to love,” he said when introducing his presentation.
In his slide presentation, he paired pictures of current Gilman students in different scenes – athletic, academic and artistic – with the work of masters: a student working on a laptop with a Caravaggio of a saint studying books; imagery of Greek warriors with our ice hockey players and ancient runners with our cross country runners; water polo goalie with raised arm and a statue of an athlete throwing a discus. Though thousands of years separate these experiences, he explained, the visual design is strikingly similar and illustrates the common human experience that bridges eons. Art is an expression of people striving to create order out of chaos in an unending desire to understand the complexity of their feelings and the world in which they live.
Brewster describes himself “largely as a plein air" and studio painter. He works mostly with 6- or 8-inch rollers and, over the years, has developed a wide range of different marks with his preferred tools.
“I am interested in confronting what I call the visible reality of our times, the aspects of our environment that are iconic, but not necessarily picturesque,” he told the boys as he showed a photograph of himself making a painting of a McDonald’s. “I’m convinced that’s where we all have an opportunity to advance our insight and our intelligence about the incongruities of our times by standing up against it and trying to make order out of it, to make sense of it.
Brewster said that the mesmeric power of art can lead to a deeper level of self discovery, and that is emotional intelligence.
Brewster’s slides included several paintings commissioned by Wm. Polk Carey ’43 for the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business and works exploring social justice currently mounted in Structure and Perspective, a major curated art exhibit at the Maryland Historical Society (running now through October 14, 2018).
About David Brewster
David Brewster attended Gilman for first through ninth grades before transferring to Middlesex School (Concord, Mass.). His father Walter is a member of the Class of 1950, and his grandfather Daniel Brewster graduated in 1914. He earned his MFA from University of Pennsylvania in 1988, and has since been invited to paint, lecture, lecture and exhibit throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He has devoted 16 years to teaching studio art full-time, and his work has been the subject of over 25 solo gallery exhibitions and is represented in private and museum collections.
Watch a video of his assembly presentation below.