Catherine “Cat” Barnstone Szafran grew up around her father’s artwork. Myron Barnstone produced his pieces between the early 1950s and the mid 1970s and showed his work in Paris and London. After living abroad he returned to the United States and opened an art school in Pennsylvania, locking away most of his paintings—so as to not influence his students’ work— and stopped producing work altogether.
The art school, Barnstone Studios, closed in 2014, two years later Myron Barnstone died. Now, about 500 original and prints of his work are ready to purchase at the new Barnstone Studios in Thurmont. Catherine “Cat” Barnstone Szafran recently spoke with the News-Post to discuss why she opened the art gallery and why her father’s work is so important.
What made you want to open a studio with your father’s work?
“The pieces that he was showing in Paris were images of survivors of what I’m calling historical Holocaust or genocide. The timeliness of it right now where all sorts of things are happening to various minorities make it appropriate. Not all of his work is that way, some have a floral feel to them, so it’s a real range of work.”
What made you settle on Thurmont as the headquarters to show your father’s work?
“It’s affordable and it’s a beautiful space that i’m renting and it does everything I need, the space is incredible. I know Thurmont is working hard on having more of an artists community and doing more with their Main Street designation so I certainly feel supported. I found that everybody I’ve met here has been very, very pleasant. I’m not your typical Thurmont resident so I’m very pleased at how everyone’s been so nice to me.”
How many pieces of art are in the studio and what price point do they start at?
“What we have left of his is about 500 pieces. It’s a hard question, what price point, there’s a variety of different tiers is the best way I can explain it. He has a lot of pieces that are 30 by 24 and they’re acrylic and we’re doing those between $3,000 and $4,000. We’re trying to have the smaller pieces be able to go for $500 or less because it would make it affordable for students. We have sketches that will obviously go for less than that. Then there are some very large pieces, I sold one recently for $7,500, and when I say they’re large. I’m 5’3 and they make me look small.”
In your own opinion what makes your father’s artwork so unique?
“He had family that has been through the Holocaust. He was exposed to the Great Depression, then he was exposed to the Cold War, then he was sent to Korea, then everything was starting with Vietnam and it became something he need to get out of his system to show the world what the potential is to people and spirituality if everyone’s looking the other way. His color palette is called the Fletcher Color System which is not your typical approach to color. It really pops, it’s really unusual and it’s a reflection of somebody working very hard in traditional master-based system and turning it into something that’s very modern art.”