Vian Shamounki Borchert paints figures that gaze piercingly from her canvasses, are enshrouded or distorted in tension against their backgrounds and emanate a phantasmagoric yet peaceful aura that is captivating.
Some of her inspirations include the Austrian artists Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and the British painter Francis Bacon.
"I consider myself a figurative artist," she said. "Even when I paint landscapes they tend to engage the anomalies in life, the catastrophic." Borchert pointed to a small acrylic painting of whispy blue mountains dotted with small orange fires titled "Santa Barbara's Fires."
Most of her paintings are large in scale, and her mysteriously austere figures and portraits command a certain level of gravitas and inspire inquiry into the human psyche.
Most recently, Borchert has been drawing a series of portraits of Andy Warhol and John Lennon, both iconic figures for art and music.
"I find them both fascinating as individuals and important for popular culture. Warhol is almost ghost-like now, but he was such a vibrant personality when he was alive and did so much for contemporary modern art. I always say you can kill the body but the soul lives on."
Borchert recommends visiting the current Andy Warhol exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art to gain a better understanding of Warhol's engagement with traditional and historic subjects, such as religious motifs in art and their recasting in popular culture icons through mass production and repetition. Her own work engages history in a different way, prioritizing and singling out expression in familiar subjects.
"I have been painting all my life," Borchert said. "I did not just stumble upon it. My mother is an artist and my father loves and collects art. I believe I have an art gene, and even though I have considered a career in medicine in the past, I could never stray too far from art."
Borchert was born in Beirut, Lebanon and moved to Maryland at age 14. She was active in various art clubs as a young high school student at Quince Orchard High School and in the greater Washington, DC area. Upon graduating from high school, she enrolled at The Corcoran College of Art and Design where she received a scholarship to study painting and graduated with a B.F.A.
Before becoming an art teacher at the Arts Barn in Gaithersburg, Borchert worked as a museum assistant at the Phillips Collection and The National Gallery of Art. She also lived in the Jordanian capital, Amman, where she painted and participated in solo and group exhibitions, taught art classes and got picked up by Jordanian and Dubai television stations for interviews on her artwork. Despite her international career, she feels strong ties to the Washington, DC area where she has put down roots. She believes strongly in the importance of art education.
"I always tell my students that drawing is essential. It teaches you how to see. Once you learn that, then you can move onto watercolor, acrylic or oil media with a particular vision in mind."
She teaches several classes a week in various media at the Arts Barn. In her classes she incorporates lessons on artists, their backgrounds and techniques, and encourages students to contribute to these discussions so that they can build a foundation in art history while producing their own work.
She teaches drawing, watercolor and acrylic classes for ages 14 and above on weekdays and weeknights at the Arts Barn.
"Working at the Arts Barn gives me a sense of community. The Arts Barn atmosphere engages me with others who love and appreciate art, be it my colleagues or students," said the artist.
As a practicing artist, Borchert also exhibits her work locally, nationally and internationally.
One of her Warhol portraits is on view at the Yellow Barn Studio and Gallery Holiday Show until Dec. 19. She is also showing a series of paintings titled "The Heart Collection" at the Maryland Federation of Art Circle Gallery in Annapolis. Some of her paintings are in the permanent collection of Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, in Amman, Jordan.
To find out more about the artist, visit her website: http://www.vianborchert.com
Registration is open now and can be completed by calling the Arts Barn at (301) 258-6394. Walk-in registration is also available at the Arts Barn in Kentlands, Gaithersburg.