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Noted artist paints Red Barn

BRIGHTON — Her name is Dorothy Gardiner.

She is a famous artist, and she is painting the old Red Barn.

Well, not exactly. The old classic structure really hasn’t had a good coat of paint since it was first built around 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a stable for the first Seminole cowboys.

Gardiner is painting the Red Barn on canvas using the pastels and dreamy style that makes her one of the nation’s top “en plein air” artists. A French expression, “en plein air” means “in the open air” and describes the act of painting outdoors using available light.

Travelers on the Brighton Reservation may have seen her standing for hours behind an elaborate easel, walking about the possibly 71-year-old barn located just west of the Harney Pond Canal.

“I really appreciate the chance to paint this wonderful structure,” said Gardiner, whose work is sold at prominent galleries in New York and San Francisco.

“Working outside like this is very inspirational to me,” she said. “When your childhood is spent hiking mountains, exploring caves, ghost towns, border towns and working on a ranch, it is not much of a leap to work ‘en plein air.’”

She will donate the finished painting and a limited-edition set of fine art prints to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum to help raise funds for an eventual renovation of the Red Barn, the Seminole Tribe’s only structure on the National Register of Historic Places.

“You can feel the spirits of the old cowboys out here,” she said while taking a break from her painting. “I feel very honored to be part of this wonderful project.”

Gardiner, who earned bachelor’s degrees in communications and theater from Temple University, originally sculpted the human form. Working in stone, wood, wire, wax and clay, she presented exhibitions across the East Coast before switching to pastels and working on location. She has studied with Deborah Paris, Ken McIndoe, Lorenzo Chavez, Albert Handell and Doug Dawson – some of the best landscape painters in the country.

A founding member of Adirondack Mountain School Painters, she is also a member of the National Academy of Professional Plein Air Painters and Professional Association of Visual Artists, as well as the Plein Air arts associations in Florida, New Mexico, Tampa Bay and Colorado. She was one of 10 artists whom the Chinese government invited to participate in a cultural exchange where she painted alongside Chinese artists and displayed her work in an exhibit there.

Gardiner’s painting and prints will be available for purchase at the Red Barn Dance, which the Tribal Historic Preservation Office and the Seminole Cattleman’s Association have tentatively scheduled for October. The event will include the unveiling of both an official National Historic Register bronze plaque for the side of the barn and a historic roadside marker a few miles away on SR 721.

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