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February 12, 2010

This is BIG: Haverhill artist displays giant canvases at local coffee shop

There is some wicked big art on the walls at Wicked Big.

The paintings are courtesy of Anne Beaulieu, a Haverhill artist who recently stepped away from her usual alabaster sculptures to create nostalgic scenes of city signs and neon lights.

Some of the pieces are smaller, but more eye-catching pieces are on large billboard paper lining the back wall of the cafe.

Art is as much a part of Beaulieu's life as breathing. She once had a bumper sticker on her car that read "Art Saves Lives" and it's a mantra that fuels her creativity and her passion. Beaulieu loves working with adults with disabilities through art and believes in the power of therapeutic art practices.

In some ways, art has also saved her own life. Or rather, it has saved precious memories, like those immortalized in the paintings hanging at Wicked Big.

"I realized that there was a certain nostalgia in my paintings," she said. "It's evocative of all the traveling I did as a kid. A lot of those memories were with my whole family in my car."

Beaulieu grew up in Connecticut, the youngest of three children. But her two older brothers died tragically when she was a young girl.

Many of the paintings are colored in a way she remembered seeing similar buildings as a child. She used to love to squint her eyes as she looked at bright city lights so colorful rays would spray out in her vision.

The large-scale paintings came about in an unplanned way. While working on a master's degree at Salem State, one of her classes was a seven-day intensive. The teacher came out the first day and offered large sheets of billboard paper as a canvas for anyone who wanted to try it. Beaulieu had collected many photos from her travels, of old theaters, shop signs and neon lights.

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