The Hess Gallery in Zug Memorial Hall holds many paintings. They belong to Brian Rogers, a deputy executive director at the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts. Besides being an executive director, Rogers is also a talented artist.
Before deciding to display Rogers’ works in the Hess Gallery at Elizabethtown College, the art faculty had to go through a reviewing process. Professor of art Dr. Milton Friedly explained that most artists submit 10-20 paintings along with a statement, resume and biography in order to be nominated. “Part of the College gallery’s job is to bring work that hasn’t been seen,” Friedly said. “A lot of people have an idea what good art is, and most of the time, they’re wrong. I feel [Rogers’ paintings] bring in different ways of working or thinking.” Friedly believes that students need to be exposed to different forms of media and that diversity is important. Friedly met Rogers through the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts at a group showing. “It’s a challenge for someone who is working full time to make art. I think he pulled off a good show,” Friedly said.
As a child, Rogers would sit and watch his mother as she painted in her leisure time. A distinct childhood memory he had was visiting many museums and admiring their art.
As he got older, Rogers became more interested in art, and soon met someone who he considers a personal mentor and friend, Li Hidley. Hidley was an expressionist painter who taught at the Art Association of Harrisburg. Since his passing in 2003, Hidley’s works are still for sale on his website. Rogers admits that he learned a lot from Hidley and that he sparked Rogers’ interest in continuing his painting career.
Rogers went on to attend and graduate from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and then later received his Master’s at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Rogers taught beginner and advanced art classes. He enjoyed teaching aspiring artists. “It is important to be patient and learn the craft,” Rogers said. Paintings need to be visually appealing, have an interesting subject and should take viewers to a specific place. “A painting is a bridge between the artwork and the viewer,” Rogers said.
At the age of 45, Rogers has been painting for almost 35 years. Even though he has been painting for such a long time, Rogers admits that, “There’s always more to learn.” Some of Rogers’ paintings in Zug depict ancient stories such as Odysseus and Penelope. “I love ancient and religious stories; you learn about the evolution of mankind,” Rogers said. Other paintings portray abstract ideas such as “Oral Braille,” which depicts fingers touching a man’s teeth. “I like to communicate complex ideas or emotion, usually based on a song or something I read,” Rogers said when asked what inspires his paintings.
While some of his titles are straightforward, others take a different path. Titles such as “Oneida” and “Gravitropism” challenge the audience to view the painting, from a different perspective. Rogers feels it is important to “clue in the viewer and describe what I’m thinking about through a title.”
Rogers feels that his style is distinct and modern and cannot really be put into a certain category. If one were to visit the Hess Gallery, he or she would see his paintings are made with oil on canvas. He mostly uses this style to create a texture and depth that he believes cannot be achieved through any other method.
Despite being busy as an executive director, in his spare time, Rogers enjoys cooking. He likes to modify recipes and mostly cooks American or ethnic dishes. Rogers currently is not working on any artwork, but when he does find the time to paint, he retires to an art studio in his house and completely tunes out the outside world.
As far as accomplishments that Rogers hopes to achieve in the future, he wants to have more exhibits where he can display his artwork. Currently, Rogers has had about 18 different exhibitions in his lifetime, ranging from one-person exhibitions to group displays. His works are mostly displayed in art galleries or art centers. “It has been a few years from the last exhibition, and this wonderful opportunity at Elizabethtown has motivated me to seek more exhibitions.”