LAHAINA — Last summer, when the COVID-19 Delta variant was at its peak, West Maui artist Janis Casco Blayer visited the Maui Memorial Medical Center in search of a portrait subject.
“I wanted to honor a frontline hero at the hospital and called Brendi Simpson at the Maui Memorial. I asked her to help me find a nurse or nurse who deserved to be honored – someone who may not have won Employee of the Month or Employee of the Year, but still deserved recognition She helped me choose Katie Talbot, RN, ER Chief Nurse », she explained.
In his oil painting called “Triage,” Blaer captured Talbot at a time under pressure on August 15, 2021, when the emergency department was full, someone with a traumatic injury was due to arrive in 15 minutes, and they were communicating with three people at the same time.
Talbot explained, “The effects of the pandemic have been felt throughout Maui County and, in particular, the 200-bed hospital where I work. Maui Memorial Medical Center’s Emergency Department (ED) has approximately 30 beds for all levels of care and emergencies. That day, the emergency department was at capacity, holding overflowing hospitalized patients, and a traumatic ocean-related incident happened in about 15 minutes. Paramedics were communicating with patient updates, the blood bank was on the phone to ensure blood products were available for the incoming patient, and the nurse guarding the main entrance was instructed to keep patients at outside because of the need for as many staff members as possible to care for this traumatized patient.
The stressful moment led to a compelling painting, and Blaer learned on Jan. 9 that “Triage” was chosen for the triannual Schaefer Portrait Challenge.
The show is on through March 20 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. There were 166 entries that met all of the criteria, but only 48 were selected statewide.
Blaer is happy that her portrait will help honor the heroes of the ongoing pandemic.
“Nothing in my life has had such a universal impact on global health as the COVID-19 virus. The loss of loved ones, the fear of the virus and the change it has brought to our daily lives are now deeply Many people have bravely served others, risking their lives during this crisis, but none are more recognizable than ‘front line’ nurses and caregivers. I couldn’t imagine a more dignified subject than honoring one of the heroes with a portrait reflecting the relentless stress of daily service in this dangerous environment,” she noted.
“Working 12 1/2 hour shifts, Katie knows the heartbreak of lost life and the constant split-second decision-making needed to treat those who need it most.”
She plans to donate 50% of the artist’s proceeds for the purchase of this piece to the Maui Health Foundation.
Blaer moved from the Northwest to Maui in 1979 and resides in Lahaina with her husband, Jeff, and their two cats.
Many members of the West Maui community may know Blayer as a retired Certified Financial Planner and owner of Casco Wealth Management, LLC.
An impressionist artist, Blaer painted all his life and studied art at Washington State University. After retiring, Blaer spent three years painting and participating in workshops held by nationally and internationally renowned plein air (outdoor) artists.
“I never pursued it as a profession – because I thought I was going to starve – and decided to make a serious effort with art until I retired”, she explained.
“Dick Sargent recognized my talent many years ago and invited me to the Sargent Art and Jewelry Gallery in February last year. It helped, but I should give the most credit to the efforts of the Maui Arts League and Lois Reiswig because she has brought the best plein air painters to Maui over the years and the workshops before and after the annual Plein Air Painting Invitational I was able to take advantage of the workshops, and these inspired me to take others to the continent and to Australia.
Blayer’s next breakthrough was his own solo exhibition last year in Clarkston, Washington, which included 64 pieces and ran for a month.
“I actually graduated from Clarkston High School. I visit my mom there once or twice a year, and while I was with her at a workshop sponsored by the Valley Art Center, their president, Robin Harvey, challenged me to put together a month-long show in October 2020. I had almost 12 months during the COVID-related lockdown to work on the 64 paintings representing my artwork for the show,” Blayer added.
This year, she was selected for a commission by the Sentry Tournament of Champions to paint 40 portraits – one for each of the qualifiers for the PGA Tour tournament held earlier this month at Kapalua’s Plantation Course.
Blaer was also invited to include eight of her paintings in the Maui Arts League’s Art Walk tent at the event.
She said she was “honoured, shocked and delighted” to have the opportunity to paint portraits of the winners of the PGA Tour 2021 contest who qualified for the Kapalua tournament.
“I thank Lois Reiswig of the Maui Arts League for putting me forward as a potential performer for the commission, but of course it was Sentry and the PGA who made the final decision. I was commissioned the first round of June 2021 and started in earnest as several golfers had already qualified by then. It took me from June to mid-December to complete the commission. I didn’t do much else during that time,” she said.
When making portraits and paintings of animals, Blaer begins by sketching the overall subject in a setting, then she works on the eyes.
“For me, the eyes are the window to the personality, and as I understand it, everything else seems to flow. That seems to be my strongest ability – to bring out the personality or character of the person or animal that I paint. she explained.
This year, she will continue to study art and attend classes and workshops whenever possible. Blayer’s next class will be at the Scottsdale Artists School in Scottsdale, Arizona in April, followed by a watercolor workshop at the Valley Art Center in Clarkston.
“I am currently working on two more commissions and look forward to more people recognizing my talent and style at Sargent’s Art Gallery and Jewelry,” she concludes.
To see his art, visit www.janisblayerart.com.