When Catherine “Cat” Barnstone Szafran discovered Frederick 26 years ago, she instantly knew it was “home.” A photographer who’s been featured in gallery exhibitions, Cat had grown up around the world. She was born in Boston, and her artist dad, Myron Barnstone, soon relocated the young family to Spain, Paris, and then the rolling hills of the county of Devon, England.
“I grew up with an art gallery on the walls of every house,” Cat said. “My dad always created a studio and photography darkroom in each home we lived in, and I loved to watch him work.” Myron utilized the precise geometric design essential to classical art -- the Golden Section -- to create paintings, drawings, and photos rich with dimension and movement. It was after he had received wide acclaim in Europe for several one-man exhibits that Myron made a radical decision. Concerned that so many modern art classes had abandoned teaching a disciplined foundation for drawing, and just suggested students “copy” what they saw, Myron put away his pens and brushes and started teaching. First, though, he burned or rolled up and locked away hundreds of his own works. He didn’t want to unduly influence his students’ artistic vision.
The family ended up in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, about half an hour out of Philadelphia. Myron taught briefly at Lehigh University and Moravian College before launching his studio in Allentown. When his classes outgrew the location, he moved Barnstone Studios to a 3rd-floor walkup in nearby Coplay. With its open design, huge windows letting in natural light and aged wooden floors, the expansive space was similar to the studios of Europe. For the next 35 years, thousands of students from across the country and around the world would find Myron and study with him for months, years or even decades.
Cat supported her father’s work but embarked on her own path. Besides becoming an accomplished photographer, she was a tireless advocate for people seeking help with addiction and mental illness. When she met and quickly fell in love with math teacher Doug Szafran, she had only one request -- she wanted to remain within a four-hour drive of her father’s Pennsylvania studio. Doug agreed, and after a search for a suitable home base, the married couple soon succumbed to the charms of Frederick. The rolling hills reminded Cat of Devon; the city was near a teaching position for Doug, and they both loved the creative art scene and warm people of the area. Besides, Frederick was just three hours from Coplay.
For the next two decades, Cat could maintain a close relationship with her father while enjoying her own life in Frederick. It wasn’t until 2013 things began to change radically. A shaky economy meant fewer students enrolling in Myron’s classes, and at the age of 80, he reluctantly made the decision to close the Coplay location and retire. He moved to Frederick to be close to Cat and Doug and began a rapid decline in health. He died in October of 2016, passing the mantle of Director of Barnstone Studios to Cat.
In addition to having to deal with the overwhelming grief of her father’s death, Cat had to quickly step up to continue the rich Barnstone Legacy. Her father had recorded his complete drawing course, a series on palette control and color theory, and an entire class on the Golden Section, the precise geometric design at the heart of classical drawing. He shared with his students the secrets the most famous artists knew and used in their iconic, timeless masterpieces. It was now Cat’s responsibility to maintain the BarnstoneStudios.com website where students could order Myron’s lessons.
She also made the decision to finally open his archives, sealed for nearly half a century, to begin to share Myron’s original works with the rest of the world. It was shortly after that in 2017 that she connected with Jennifer Findley, owner of ArtistAngle Gallery in Frederick, and the two made a historic decision.
Jennifer offered to dedicate her gallery to a revolving exhibit of Myron’s works from March through July 2018. It would be the first showing of Barnstone’s art in the nation, and the first public viewing since Myron’s European gallery exhibits in the 60s. Most of the work in the expansive Barnstone archives had never before been seen. Frederick was going to be the stage for turning an internationally respected master art teacher into an equally respected master artist. Realizing that Barnstone Studios alumni defined Myron’s life purpose, Cat immediately invites those who wanted to exhibit alongside their mentor to submit images of their own work for consideration.
Cat decided to break the “months of Myron” into four separate exhibits: “Evolution: Growing into Mastery” to launch, “Environment: Listening to the Land” in April to tie in with Earth Day and show how artists’ surroundings influence their work; “Emotion: How Art Awakens the Soul” in June and finally a one-man show in July.
Alumni jumped at the chance to show how Myron’s teachings guided their successful careers, and since the “Evolution” launch March 11, ArtistAngle has offered Frederick residents and visitors both a historic opportunity to view previously hidden masterworks by Barnstone, and the chance to see how many of his students have gone on to distinguished art careers of their own.
Art patrons are eagerly purchasing both original Barnstone works, and limited edition prints of selected pieces.
ArtistAngle is also hosting Barnstone Method art classes, where accomplished alumni from around the country travel to Frederick to teach the secrets of classical design.
Cat is thrilled with the positive reaction the exhibits are receiving from the Frederick community and feels it’s only fitting the city is the launch point for this next generation of the Barnstone Legacy.
Art Highlights is a blog about what's going on with me, my photography, and the art world .