Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

“Painted Journey”: PA Watercolor Society opens exhibit at Brain Vessel

My personal 3rd in the Burg arrived early this month, and the “burg” got switched to Mechanicsburg. That’s accurate in that an art reception was held at Brain Vessel on the Carlisle Pike last weekend, but don’t despair. Harrisburg’s monthly 3rd arrives as scheduled on June 21.

Nothing evokes summer more than a wistful watercolor painting that engages a symphony of colors. So, it was appropriate that the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society’s board of directors opened their exhibit, “Along the Painted Journey.”

The board’s Debra Kreiger graciously guided me around the gallery for the grand tour of watercolors. A knowledgeable host, she has a personal connection to the gallery, as she is one of the co-owner’s mothers. In the background, the jazz duo of Rhoads and Putt provided the perfect seasonal sounds, sharing standards with a twist on electric guitars. The society’s Walker family was well represented—John, Virginia and Johnny. Rounding out the board of 12 were artists Donna Barlup, Jeannine Swartz, Pam Wenger, Linda Young, Helen Canfield, Eric Miller, Gay Dunn and Caryn Husowech.

Barlup is also a past president of the Susquehanna Valley Plein Air Painters, and her works have also been well represented in “Art of the State,” the annual juried exhibition at the Pennsylvania State Museum. She and her fellow artists embrace the challenges created by watercolors, approaching their next work with planned precision as exacting execution determines the finished result.

Perhaps one of the most challenging mediums in the art compendium, watercolor painting, in its best representation, proves that focused attention to detail and a steady hand are paramount to success. Watercolorists’ lives are defined by beauty and passion, chasing ethereal eloquence on archival paper with brush in hand.

Speaking of challenging—on hand for the show was Roni Dietrich, who has specialized in the artistic endeavor of scrimshaw for 40 years. In case you’re not familiar, scrimshaw is the adornment of whalebone and walrus tusks with carved or colored designs. Her work has been featured at galleries in Maine and Rhode Island, as well as in art journals and national publications.

It makes sense that Dietrich is a house artist at Brain Vessel, since, as one pulls up to the building on the Carlisle Pike, piracy immediately comes to mind. Romance of the high seas is visibly present with a rusted ship’s anchor at the entrance to the gallery.

The brainchild of Doug Koozer and Jason Kreiger, Brain Vessel opened in 2013 and is known for incorporating their love and legacy of high-seas hijinks, branding its way onto a buccaneer’s bounty of treasures. It’s on playing cards, collectible coins, dice and tooled leather coasters, among other objects, all carrying a nautical theme. Brain Vessel’s own creations mark just the beginning of an adventure-worthy visit through a gallery that highlights artists’ works through showings and classes.

Brain Vessel houses a pirate’s plunder of products for adorning the home, from fine art to one-of-a-kind, out-sized sculptures. Woven baskets, pottery, turned wooden vessels, hand-cast jewelry, teas and botanical honeys complete the flagship’s first floor. With another studio gallery below deck and a sumptuous garden out back, I recommend allowing an hour or so just to navigate the “vessel” and experience the adventure in its complete package.

The real genius of Brain Vessel is its ability to cross-pollinate both merchandise and ideas with other central Pennsylvania merchants and businesses. This creates a network that helps all in the way of maximum exposure. By breathing life into a vision of their client’s needs, Brain Vessel creates a polished product uniquely its own, solidly establishing an identifiable brand that cements an intangible idea with a real commodity. No mad scientist here, but true genius, capable of executing an idea to its desired end.

Brain Vessel Gallery is located at 4704 Carlisle Pike, Mechanicsburg. For more information visit or their Facebook page.

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