Middletown Woman Merges Art with Enterprise

Up against the blacktop and concrete of Middletown’s busy North Union Street is the aptly named Arts on Union Gallery. The owner, and occupant of the 19th-century structure, is Christine Goldbeck. The energetic 47-year-old woman opened her business in February of 2009, one that accepts visitors and patrons “by appointment or by chance.”

In reality, Arts on Union is as much Goldbeck’s studio and classroom as it is a retail enterprise. She indulges in painting and photography on a daily basis to “keep my sanity.” Instruction is offered, but on a less frequent schedule.

It is also the primary meeting base for the Mixed Media Art Group, a consortium of local artists and photographers who exchange information, learn from each other and present exhibitions.

Goldbeck’s painting mediums are acrylic and oil. Her compositions can be ethereal, reminiscent of the pre-Impressionist light and atmosphere studies by J.M.W. Turner and some of Monet’s later landscapes in which objects seem to dissolve in a colorful haze.

Others contain recognizable forms, but Goldbeck is always stretching the boundaries in that regard. The use of unconventional painting tools promotes it – oil sticks, her fingers, twigs, sponges, forks, tissue paper.

The textures that they create can be employed within arbitrary shapes, or be useful in suggesting realistic imagery. “The larger the piece, the less frequently I use brushes,” she says.

Goldbeck works with a limited palette. “I stick with the primaries, white, black and a violet hue for deep shadows,” she states. “You just don’t need many colors when you have the primaries.”

For acrylics, the artist favors Golden and some Liquitex products, preferring the hues in liquid form for most of her work. “I’ll use tube paint for the finishing layers, to apply surface texture,” she says.

The buttery characteristic of Gamblin oils make them Goldbeck’s choice for that medium. “They’re wonderful, with great opacity,” she says. “I’ll use linseed oil or turpentine as thinner for preliminary washes and glazing.

I build both visual and dimensional texture into most of my paintings. Lately, I’m enjoying working with encaustic and oil and with cold wax and oil.”

Goldbeck transfers her veneration for things impressionistic to the photography medium and does it very well – straight or manipulated. She is a juried member in photography of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, a status earned through rigorous examination of an applicant’s work.

Some of her photos are digital creations, but most are produced with a collection of inexpensive Holga medium-format cameras, sometimes referred to as “toy” cameras.

The 120-roll film used with them must be shipped to New York City for processing. Goldbeck takes advantage of the camera’s retro technology and low-resolution images.

“I can produce multiple exposure prints by simply not winding the film forward after an exposure,” she says. “And, it’s possible to infuse the negative with light, as well. You never know how it will look until it’s developed. Some of my best photos, award winners, were produced with a Holga camera.”

A former national and state award-winning photojournalist, Goldbeck earned a B.A. in American history and creative writing from Goddard College in Vermont, and holds a Master of Fine Arts-Interdisciplinary Arts (MFA-IA) degree from the same school.

She exhibits widely, with work in American and international corporate and private collections.

For the month of December, the State Capitol East Wing Rotunda will house an exhibition of Goldbeck’s paintings and photographs. Learn more about the artist and her work at christinegoldbeck.com