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Brandon Artist and Town at Odds Over Size of Painting

State of the Arts

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Liza Myers' sunflower painting
  • Liza Myers' sunflower painting

For the first time in the eight-year run of Brandon’s annual feel-good community art project, some of the feelings are not so good. In fact, town officials are demanding that local painter Liza Myers take down her contribution: a 16-by-4-foot sunflower-themed oil painting hanging on the outside wall of her downtown gallery. The zoning administration argues that the sweeping, moonlit panorama is a sign and draws too much attention to Myers’ business. Myers insists it is art.

“I intentionally made it joyful,” she says of the mural-sized work. “My aim was to make it noncontroversial, positive, magical.”

Too late.

The piece, which Myers hung last month as others erected 80 wooden sunflower cut-outs around town, exceeds the municipal limit for signage: Individual commercial signs can be no larger than 32 square feet, and a business’ total signage cannot surpass 64 square feet or 5 percent of the building’s face, whichever is less.

But this is assuming the painting is a sign. Myers’ work contains no words other than her signature tucked away in the lower righthand corner.

Zoning administrator Tina Wiles was not available for comment. ** ADDENDUM: Tina Wiles could not be reached because town offices were closed for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. **

“In the town of Brandon … if it draws attention to your building, it’s a sign,” Myers says. “So all these years, for eight years, we have drawn attention to everybody’s businesses by putting a pig in front of it, or dogs and cats, a huge rocking chair.”

Myers admits that, this year, her piece does stand out from the rest.

“I think it was sort of an in-your-face too big,” she says. “But I needed to do something big. I’ve done sunflowers for years and years, and all of a sudden everybody was going to be doing sunflowers ... And the side of the building screams for art. It doesn’t scream for signage; it screams for art.”

Myers has been involved in the Brandon Artists’ Guild’s annual community-art project since the beginning. In 2002, she used the opportunity to make a fiberglass flying pig; the following year, a bird house. Other contributions have been a rocking chair, an artist’s palette and a box painted with calla lilies and Luna moths.

The summerlong exhibit has been widely perceived as an economic boon for the town of Brandon.

This year the guild came close to skipping the project altogether, though. After a tough economic year, Myers says, the group couldn’t get any volunteers to run the committee.

At the last minute, local folk artist and guild founder Warren Kimble suggested keeping it simple with a sunflower theme — title: “Sunflower Power 2010.” Some 25 member-artists decorated the centers of the flowers, which are available for sale throughout the summer and fall, but they decided to skip the auction previously held in October.

In the past, the artists’ work was donated, and the proceeds from the auction went to support the guild’s community programs. This year, Myers has priced her piece at $15,000; if it sells, a portion of that is earmarked for the guild.

The Development Review Board has scheduled a hearing about the sign — er, painting — on July 28. But for now, it’s staying put.

“I’m not giving in,” Myers vows, “until I have to.”

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