Archive for Thursday, July 8, 1999


July 8, 1999


Lawrence artists Robert Berkeley Green and Miriam Stewart Green will exhibit their works in Topeka.

Artist-singer Miriam Stewart Green hears music in colors. A composition's mood, tempo, rhythm and melodies flow in shades of blues, yellows and reds.

Green's gift is called synthesia, a technical term used to describe the stimulation of one sense by another. It's a condition shared by such artists as composer Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov, writer Virginia Woolf and poet Dylan Thomas.

"The verbal crosses over to the visual. I see music and I heard color," she said.

In the past few years, Green has been using her watercolors and brushes to transfer the compositions of women composers onto canvas. Some of those paintings, as well as her landscapes, still lifes and figurative works, will be among the works on display beginning Friday at Phoenix Gallery Topeka in Topeka.

The exhibit, "The Color of Love," will mark the first time Miriam Stewart Green has paired with her husband, the accomplished artist Robert Berkeley Green, for a show of their watercolor and oil paintings.

Robert Berkeley Green, who will turn 90 on July 28, came to Lawrence in 1946, after spending three years as a Prix de Rome Fellow at the American Academy in Rome and serving with the Army Visual Aids unit at Fort Benning, Ga., during World War II. He taught drawing and painting at Kansas University for 33 years before retiring as professor emeritus of art in 1979.

His works, which range from lotus flowers painted with a Zen approach to abstact, symbolic and figurative works, are included in the collections at the Smithsonian Institution, Carnegie-Mellon Museum, Joslyn Art Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Before Miriam Stewart Green moved to Lawrence to teach voice at KU (where she met her husband), she was an established opera singer and performer.

She appeared in the 1940s Broadway production of "Song of Norway"; sang with the New York City Opera Company in the United States and Canada; performed on several radio and television shows, including the "Star of Stars" radio show with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca; sang with symphony orchestras in Dallas, Cleveland, Sacramento, Chicago, New York City and Guadalajara, Mexico; and recorded Monteverdi's "Vespro" with conductor Leopold Stokowski. She also served as a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. State Department.

But when she retired from KU in 1985 she decided to devote her time to the visual arts, something that kept vying for her attention during her singing career.

"I decided that I always wanted to paint. In the years since I retired, I decided to amass a body of work. " I have always felt something calling me to paint," she said.

"Painting and drawing -- I've always done them. " But you have to look at the practical side. If you choose a career of painting, it takes a longer time to get recognized -- if you get recognized. I wanted to have something going."

In her home studio now, Green is working on "A False Design to Be Cruel," a watercolor inspired by a song by Mary Harvey that combines her painting with her many years of research into women composers.

"I wanted to document the work of women composers," she said. "I started out looking for some material by these women and the project grew, culminating finally into a book that has been published."

The book, "Women Composers: a checklist of works for the solo voice," is a reference book and bibliography published in 1980 by G.K Hall. The book includes 3,746 women composers from 72 countries, dating as far back as 600 B.C.

It's the songs of these women that Green mirrors in her paintings.

"I do paintings of songs I can sing in my head," she said. "It's a matter of being acquainted with them and being able to hum and feel the tune as you work. I've painted over 60 songs."

The Greens share a love of nature and flowers, the subjects of many of their most recent paintings.

"Iris and foxglove were my last things to paint," she said.

The Greens have recently experienced some health problems. So their daughter, Missy Hamilton, an artist from California, has come back to Lawrence to help care for them.

Miriam Stewart Green describes the Topeka exhibit as "a miracle," mainly because she never thought her work would be considered good enough to be in an exhibit with her husband's. After all these years, she is still in awe of her husband's artistic vision and talent.

"I know I'm always in the shadow of a great artist," she said.

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is


What: "The Color of Love," an exhibition of watercolor and oil paintings by Robert Berkeley Green and Miriam Stewart Green.

When: Friday through Aug. 31.

Where: Phoenix Gallery Topeka, 2900-F Oakley Ave., Topeka.

Artists' reception: From 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday.

Gallery hours: From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

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