A lot of people would love to be more like Wayne Berube. After teaching at Cibola High School for 10 years, the 40-year-old Albuquerque native was burnt. He loved teaching, but whining parents and intrusive administrators eventually ground him down.
Berube took some part-time jobs doing ladies' makeup at Sears, Dillards and similar places around town. With the earnings from these side jobs, he built up a tidy sum that he invested in French, Israeli and New York fine art prints. “It was my exit strategy to get out of teaching,” he says. With his new print collection, he opened Artbar, a small storefront in Nob Hill where his business consists of selling prints and framing. He's been doing it for seven years.
“It's been a huge blessing from God,” Berube says. “How could someone have success selling art in a non-art town during economic times that aren't exactly booming? There's no explanation other than that it's a blessing from God.”
After escaping a job that had become a drudgery to him, he created a newly independent life immersed in art. Berube still takes trips abroad to buy new prints. About two-thirds of his business comes from framing, and that aspect of his operation also keeps him surrounded by artistic creation.
So it's somewhat odd that until six months ago, Berube never made any art of his own. “That's the thing, I'm a newbie,” he says. “But after framing other people's stuff for seven years, I finally said, 'When's my turn?'”
His turn, apparently, is now. He has a one-man show up through May 5 at O'Neill's Pub. Considering his substantial knowledge and love of fine art, his medium of choice is a surprising one: collage combined with watercolor. Berube's art juxtaposes celebrity personalities—Britney Spears, Mel Gibson, Queen Elizabeth, Kid Rock, etc.—placing them in bright, almost hyperactive colorscapes that at first glance seem almost oppressively optimistic.
He was inspired by a customer who brought in a series of collages that he started doing when he was 50. Berube is 40. “I like collage and watercolor because they're very lowbrow. I actually wanted to be a stencil artist, which is even more lowbrow, but I just couldn't see things in silhouette. So I took up collage and watercolor.”
Berube points out that this sort of art might be practiced for one week in art school before students move on to more serious business. “It's not at all like oil painting,” he says. “I want to deeply immerse myself in what most other artists would scoff at and scorn as nonsense.”
As you might have already guessed, there's a thick layer of sarcasm beneath the lurid swashes of color and pop culture signifiers that fill up his pieces. As a devoted Christian, Berube has plenty of scathing criticisms to make about our celebrity- and money-obsessed society. Yet his art is designed to be as accessible as possible. In the future, he'd like to take a stab at more ambitious projects, like illustrating the entire Bible. For now, he seems to just be playing—which is never the worst excuse for making art.
“I'm still in my happy period,” he laughs. “I'm sick of seeing the painting where the dead branch is growing out of the earth with the sickly sun in the sky. I love a colorful palette. Art should be fun.”
An exhibit featuring mixed media work by Wayne Berube runs through May 5 at O'Neill's Pub (4310 Central SE). A reception will be held on Monday, April 23, from 5 to 7 p.m. You can see more of Berube's art at www.arthaus66.com. 255-6782.