“Loving Paris Back” by Rebecca Vincenzi

Below is an essay that one of our artists, Rebecca Vincenzi, wrote about her arrival in Paris. Vincenzi will be featured in a solo show at Beacon Gallery, titled “La Vie Parisienne” , opening on Friday, August 3rd at 6 p.m.


Loving Paris Back 

I left London and moved to Paris with no idea why beyond trying to escape a broken heart.

Arriving at Gare Du Nord on a hot July day, I took a room in the cheapest hotel I could find, only to wake up in the night to find my white nightdress speckled with blackcurrant size bedbugs.

Before this inauspicious arrival I’d had some impressive artist teachers in London: illustrators at St Martin’s Art School, and life drawing artists at City Literary Institute in London.  They gave me the foundations for those first tentative sketches in my adopted city in that bedbug-filled hotel room.

As did many migrants of all walks of life moving Paris, I rented a small flat in La Goutte d’Or.  Here, in a neighbourhood filled with run-down bars, the exposed wounds of poverty were evident on the streets: petty crime, drunken fights, and prostitution. The suffering of others was little catharsis for my wounded soul.

Yet the real lesson I learned in those early days of my new life in Paris was what Picasso spoke of when he said vision was like blindness: “They should put out the eyes of a painter as they do goldfinches to make them sing [louder]” In other words, Picasso felt that sight must be destroyed for a more intuitive vision of the world to be awakened.


Sans titre

Blinded, oil on card, 1998

I knew I needed to look deeper to truly experience my new neighbourhood. What I saw on the surface was not enough.

I started by looking up: above the street-level hardships loomed the glowing dome of the Sacré Coeur Church, reminding me of Brassai’s secret Paris of the 1930s, with its 19th century street lamps, moonlit cobbled passageways, and desolate streets at dawn and dusk.

Chateau D'Eau

Le Chateau D’Eau, Oil on Canvas, 2013

I realised Paris, and particularly these lesser known neighborhoods, had their own unique light and colour.  Toulouse Lautrec’s electric Paris, with its cabaret scenes, inspired me to sketch the dynamic movement of people in my gritty arrondissement: the fluorescent lights of the bars, the metro lights, and the neon blue of the early morning skies.

In time my broken heart began to heal, and life in Paris felt rejuvenating.

RVI-007-PAI unframed web

Marché Dejean, oil on canvas, 2004

Paris has always seemed to celebrate both its artists and its artisans: from the makers of its ‘pavés’ (cobblestones) to the makers of its patisserie (cakes), and everyone in between. As Hemingway said “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

I continued my discovery of my neighbourhood and my own “moveable feast” in the markets of La Goutte d’Or. Every few days I would wend my way between throngs with shoppers, many in brightly printed African boubous. At the market one could procure traditional in-season French produce such as ripe cherries in July, and Anjou pears in the fall. However, the market catered to their clientele with exotic fruits and vegetables such as cassava as well as halal meat.  


Tarte aux fruits III, oil on canvas, 2018

I would go to the market to feed both body and soul. Picking up my meal for the evening as well as quickly photographing and sketching, I would rush home to commit the vibrant sights of my Paris to memory. Attempting to observe people as did the French filmmaker Jacques Tati through his camera, I sketched the flux of life and movement of the people in La Goutte D’or.

I came to realize that although Paris is nicknamed the ‘City of Light’, the appeal of the city is not just about wattage.  Paris has also been home to intellectual insight for generations. Paris was the birthplace of the enlightenment, inspiring poets, philosophers and scientists.  Descartes’ ‘I think therefore I am’ implied that, like an onion, thoughts themselves can reveal more and more layers of understanding.

I found my own layers in my neighbourhood and the city beyond. I learned to love my neighbourhood café, boulangerie and épicerie, even as I clutched my bag tight to my side while walking home at night. And as I explored new neighbourhoods, I would always take my sketch book. One of my favourite activities was to sit nursing a café crème while sketching those around me.

Picasso famously said, “Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” I would take my sketches home and turn them into larger works in oil, expanding on my “diary” and creating a narrative of my time in the city I was growing to love.

The Parisian landscape allowed me to both see well-known sights and new locations simultaneously as I unravelled the mysteries and insights of what had drawn me there. The Goutte d’Or and other beloved neighbourhoods, their landscapes, their people, continue to inspire my work.

café à Trocadero copie

Café au Trocadero, oil on canvas 2013

Herein lies a personal truth: Painting helps both remove me from the center of everything and allows me to use the diamond-like facets of the inner eye, which sees a dream in the same way as a sleeping eye can. Painting gives me insight and peace, and the city of Paris, and my neighbourhoods in particular, are my muse.  

As long as Paris continues to welcome its artists, nurture its artisans, host its cooks, architects, musicians and dancers with its “liberté, égalité, et fraternité” it will continue to be a magnet for inspiration and artists of its past, present and its future and continue to be a path for many a creative journey.

– Rebecca Vincenzi






Dr. Joel Salinas to speak at Beacon Gallery

Beacon Gallery’s current show, “Synaesthesia: Abstract Art & Creative Writing” sought out writers who could create pieces of poetry or prose in response to the abstract paintings being shown.

You may find it interesting to know that one of the writers featured in the show has a form of synaesthesia. Dr. Joel Salinas is very active in expressing what living with this neurological condition has been like. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Synesthesia is defined as “the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by simulation of another sense or part of the body.”

Dr. Salinas is a neurologist at Harvard University Medical School and at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Neurology. He specializes in brain health, focusing on neuropsychiatry and cognitive behavioral neurology. Living with synaesthesia inspired his career in the medical field.

Dr. Salinas’s form of synesthesia is known as Mirror Touch Synaesthesia (MTS), through which he physically feels what the people around him physically feel. For example, if you were to touch your cheek, Dr. Salinas would, in response, involuntarily feel a “phantom hand” running down his own cheek. If you were to get slapped on the face, Dr. Salinas, too, would feel as if he had just been slapped on his face.

Living with MTS has helped Dr. Salinas’s practice as a neurologist. For example, while taking care of a patient with Cerebral palsy, she began to fight and kick. She was unable to verbally express what was bothering her, and the team was trying to figure out what was wrong. Suddenly, Dr. Salinas felt a pain in his lungs. Because of his synaesthesia, the team was able to discover blood clots forming in the patient’s lungs; the root cause of her extreme discomfort.

Dr. Salinas is very involved in spreading awareness of his form of synaesthesia. He has appeared on the TedX series, giving a brilliant talk titled “We’re All Weird And That’s Normal”. He has also appeared on NBC’s Megyn Kelly’s series: “Making Sense” where she explores the many ways our bodies utilize their senses. Dr. Salinas also appeared on Fox News Digital’s “Health Talk” with Dr. Manny Alvarez, where Salinas explains what it was like to witness a patient dying for the first time.

In addition to giving informative talks, Dr. Salinas has also published a book titled “Mirror Touch: A memoir of synesthesia and the secret life of the brain”. You can purchase his book here.

Come to Beacon Gallery’s “Synaesthesia Salon” this Friday, July 27th to meet Dr. Salinas and listen to his talk! Other featured writers will be present as well. Come for an enjoyable night of abstract art and live performances! Doors open at 6 p.m. We hope to see you there!





Meet the Artist: James C. Varnum

One of Beacon Gallery’s featured artist in “Synaesthesia: Abstract Art & Creative Writing” is James C. Varnum. Like many other artists, Varnum’s career path was not always strictly artistic.

Varnum earned a M.Ed. and became a teacher, and then later went on to earning a M.S. in communication disorders and worked as a Speech Language Pathologist. After retiring in 2011, Varnum has recently devoted his time and is now a full-time artist.

Like other artists featured in the show, Varnum creates complex abstract works. He is a self-proclaimed “experimental watercolorist,” and, although he uses the traditional medium, his approach to it is anything but that.

Varnum is fascinated by texture, color, and movement, and as a result, his paintings are a combination of those features. Working on surfaces like watercolor paper, Yupo, and Terra-skin, Varnum utilizes many different mediums to achieve his final product. To create texture, he often uses materials like plastic wrap, waxed paper, masking fluid, and spray bottles with water or alcohol. To move the pigment, he uses tools like brushes, combs, squeegees and palette knives. A signature feature of his work is the distinct black lines that lie on top of the pigment, often consisting of ink or graphite.

Awakening 20x26
James Barnum, Awakening 

Why does he draw intricate lines on top of his paintings? Varnum claims that by doing so, it promotes an interchange between him and the painting. He offers, “I realized that when I draw lines on my work, I engage in a deliberate process of emphasizing the topography of the painting…”

When viewing his work, one will notice his strategic interplay of line. Varnum admits that he consciously creates a dichotomy in each of his paintings. He delicately balances soft edges with hard edges, straight marks with curved marks, and warm tones with cool tones.

Earth Currents 14x20
James Barnum, Earth Currents

Varnum hopes that his viewers will create an association or interpretation of the painting that triggers a narrative of their own- much like the writers featured in the current show have already done. Come create a narrative of your own. “Synaesthesia: Abstract Art & Creative Writing” will run through July 29th. We hope to see you there!

“Synaesthesia Salon”

Synaesthesia Salon

Music, Poetry and Author Talk on July 27th 6 -9 pm

Beacon Gallery is pleased to announce that in conjunction with its current show, “Synaesthesia: Abstract Art and Creative Writing,” it will be hosting an evening of poetry and an author talk as a closing reception for the show.

This event will feature nine of the writers included in the Synaesthesia show. Featured writers include Matthew Goff, Olivia Kiers, Chris Lee, Naomi Mulvihill, Joel Salinas, Barbara Rosen, Anjali Shankar, Daniel Shkolnik and Teb.

Each of these contributors submitted an original piece of creative writing in response to works of abstract art. Their responses are a form of synaesthesia, or the production of one sense of the body by the stimulation of another sense. Beacon Gallery was impressed by the works submitted by these authors, and we want to share their talent with you!

Below is a sneak-peek on a few of our featured writers.

Olivia J. Kiers holds a Master’s degree in the History of Art and Architecture from Boston University and is the Assistant Editor of Art New England magazine. Her poetry has appeared in Sunset LiminalThe Ekphrastic ReviewBewildering StoriesGyroscope Review, and others.

Chris Lee is a Creative Director at The Boston Group and also help organize the Synaesthesia Salon. He studies philosophy and poetry in his minimal spare time.

Naomi Mulvihill was a Seven-Month Poetry Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA (2013-2014). Her poems have been published in a variety of journals including the Kenyon Review OnlineNew Orleans ReviewGreen Mountains Review, CutBank and West Branch. Her essays have been published in The Harvard Educational Review and The Writer’s Chronicle. She works as a bilingual teacher in the Boston Public Schools.

Joel Salinas will be speaking as part of the evening’s events, the author talk. Dr. Salinas is a best-selling author and brain doctor at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Neurology. After incidentally discovering his atypical form of sensory perception, known as synesthesia, he pursued a deep curiosity to learn more about the brain and how we all experience the world. Over the last two decades, Dr. Salinas has been studied in the labs of renowned neuroscientists, interviewed and cared for thousands of patients, and conducted brain health research with a focus on understanding how we connect with one another and what that means for our individual and collective well-being. He chronicles his experiences in the acclaimed book Mirror Touch: A memoir of synesthesia and the secret life of the brain.  

If you want to find out more, please join these writers and others on July 27th for an enjoyable and informative night at Beacon Gallery. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the salon will start promptly at 6:30. We hope to see you there!

Meet the Artist: Adrienne Shishko

Another artist behind Beacon Gallery’s current show, “Synaesthesia: Abstract Art & Creative Writing” is Adrienne Shishko. Having worn many “hats” in her vocational path, including working at the buying office for Saks on Fifth Avenue, to working as a general legal counsel and director of marketing, Shishko has recently fulfilled her life-long dream, and has devoted her time to being a full-time artist.

Shishko states that throughout her vocational journey, she has actually grown as an artist. She has not only discovered here style as an artist, but also who she is as a human being.

Shishko creates unique abstract works, and the result is a quasi-autobiography. Shishko makes use of everyday materials, often consisting of objects that she has touched, seen, read, or admired in her day-to-day existence.

Adrienne Shishko, Area

No two of Shishko’s artworks are alike. At times, she argues that her work is “riotous with color and gesture” reflecting her effort to “take it all in and make sense of it.” Pieces in the current show, like “Last Chance for Something” embody this theme. However, she also argues that her work can also be limited in color, reflecting her self-inflicted challenge of working within boundaries that she has given herself.

Adrienne Shishko, Last Chance for Something

Outside of Beacon Gallery, Shishko has been well-received as an artist. She has public installations on various buildings in Crystal City, Virginia, that add much-needed color to an industrialized area.

Adrienne Shishko believes that her art is a true expression of living in the moment. We hope that you decide to live in the moment, too, and stop by Beacon Gallery to see the work for yourself! “Synaesthesia: Abstract Art & Creative Writing” will run through July 29th.

Meet the Artist: Anya Leveille

Another one of the artists in Beacon Gallery’s current show “Synaesthesia: Abstract Art & Creative Writing” is Anya Leveille. Having been trained as a texture artist at Laguna College of Art and Design, Leveille’s abstract works are focused on how texture and color are related to specific objects or places.

Painting by Anya Leveille
Anya Reveille, Dryad’s Bubble

Leveille works on wood panel, and meticulously layers color, texture, and medium to create her striking abstract works. Her works featured in the current show are no exception to her artistic method. She uses various tools for expressive texture and mark-making.

Although all her works that are featured in the current show utilize more traditional media like oil and wax, Leveille is not limited by these materials. In other pieces, she experiments with Venetian plaster, marble dust, natural pigment that has been mined, and crushed seashells, to name a few. Leveille’s list of materials continues to grow, as she explains that there is always something new to discover when working with textures.

Painting by Anya Leveille
Anya Reveille, Cherry Trees on the Potomac 

All of her works are inspired by places that she has been to or seen, and, as an avid lover of history, she often finds her inspiration while walking through antiquity museums and historical sites. Through her abstract work and impressive use of color and texture, Leveille hopes that the viewer might be able to realize his own discovery.

Come check out what writers have discovered in Anya Leveilles’s abstract pieces, or come to realize your own! “Synaesthesisa: Abstract Art & Creative Writing” will be on sow through July 29th. We hope to see you at Beacon Gallery.

Meet the artist: Betty Canick

Another artist who is featured in Beacon Gallery’s current show, “Synaesthesia: Abstract Art & Creative Writing” is Betty Canick. Originally having been trained as a painter at the Rhode Island School of Design, Canick’s vocational trajectory changed paths. Canick went on to pursue a degree in psychoanalytic training, and then became a clinician.

Like many artists, Canick returned to her true love, and in 2005, she embraced her career in the visual arts. She admits that her work as an artist has a lot in common with her work in psychology. She believes that “a disciplined intuition and openness to surprise are essential to both [fields].”

Betty Canick, The Corner

Canick’s pieces featured in Beacon Gallery’s current show are abstract works. In each of these pieces, Canick experiments with a wide range of media. To make these works, Canick is “drawn to the ephemeral” and likes “to create order out of chaos.” Her works are all unique, incorporating a variety of layers, textures, and colors. In each of her pieces, Canick aims to capture movement, gesture, and moments in transition.


Her unique incorporation of media in each of her pieces, like old sheet music for a flutist in “A Thousand Worlds,” for example, surely have potential to evoke many feelings- perhaps bringing the viewer back to his elementary music class. Her pieces are great conversation starters, and also serve as great subjects for creative writers to explore their written response, as they have done in the current show.

Betty Canick, A Thousand Worlds

Betty Canick has been featured in Concord Art Center’s juried Roddy shows in 2014, 2016, and 2017, and received an Honorable Mention award in 2017.

Come see Betty Canick’s wonderfully complex abstract pieces at Beacon Gallery. “Synaesthesia: Abstract Art & Creative Writing” will run through July 29th. We hope to see you there!