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Brighton-Pittsford Post
  • Local artist shows off hex signs exhibit at Starry Nites Café

  • Rochester artist Beth Brown is obsessed with stars. Not the celebrity variety of Hollywood fame, but the kind that adorn the barns of Pennsylvania’s farm country. Hex signs to be exact.These colorful geometric designs enclosed within a circle have been painted on barns in the rural counties of Pennsylvania for nearly 200 years.

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  • Rochester artist Beth Brown is obsessed with stars. Not the celebrity variety of Hollywood fame, but the kind that adorn the barns of Pennsylvania’s farm country. Hex signs to be exact.These colorful geometric designs enclosed within a circle have been painted on barns in the rural counties of Pennsylvania for nearly 200 years.

    Brown’s fascination with this subject has resulted in her series of painted studies for an exhibit called “Hex Signs & Barn Stars” now featured at Starry Nites Café. Loosely based on the traditional designs, she has created a variety of stars with acrylic paints on mostly round shaped canvases and wood. Stars with 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 16 points are depicted, many painted with a crackle finish to make them appear to be worn with time.

    German in origin, this type of traditional folk art was sprung from fraktur drawings, stemming from the rich history of Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch) culture. Hex signs were used by farmers to decorate their barns and, some say, to ward off evil spirits or bring good luck or fortune to the farm dwellers.

    Brown’s recent fixation on the historical signs started about six months ago. “I’ve been carrying around a library book on Hex signs like it’s my bible,” she says. “As an artist, once I get motivated creatively by a new art form, I try to absorb and learn the subject as much as I can, visually and intellectually, until I get it out of my system and move on to a new inspiration.” Regarding her attraction to the subject, she explains, “I’m not really sure why I’m so drawn to them. To me, the stars on the barns express the historical and cultural heritage of the community and a sense of pride in their livelihood. The signs act as beacons speaking to passersby throughout the Pennsylvania countryside. But mostly they evoke a sense of mystery and wonder that captures my attention.” When asked about the association of magic in the signs, Brown says, “I find the folklore relating to the stars fascinating, but I don’t pretend to be an expert on the purposes of their symbolic meanings. I’m mostly focused on their decorative aspects.”

    Although the paintings for sale at the exhibit are strictly for interior use, Brown can also custom make the signs to hang outdoors on homes, garages, or barns.

    Brown studied drawing and painting at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She is a fine and decorative artist, portrait and mural painter, and art gallery owner. She represents local artists in her exhibit space.
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    The Shoe Factory Art Co-op located in Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts. Her business Moonblossom Signworks features her hand painted signs for home or business, and vintage style faux antique signs. She teaches drawing and painting for teens and adults in her workshop, Beth Brown Art & Design Studio.

    Beth Brown’s websites: www.moonblossomsignworks.com, www.bethbrownartist.com

    To view more artwork by local artists, visit the Shoe Factory Art Co-op’s gallery at 250 N. Goodman St., Studio 212, Rochester, NY 14607. Phone: 585-732-0036 Email: studio212@shoefactoryarts.com Website: www.shoefactoryarts.com .
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