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One-man shop sells realist artwork

BY GRACE PATERAS | OCTOBER 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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Each week The Daily Iowan will provide an in-depth look at an Iowa City business.

Before artist Tam Bodkin Bryk gets to work, the oil painter listens to lectures and books on tape to get her mind focused. She heads down to her studio where she spends most of her time, seven days of the week.

While her husband is upstairs in his office, Bodkin Bryk begins painting.

“Inspiration for my work comes from something I see in real life,” she said. “Sometimes it goes real well, but like life, you never really know.”

Bodkin Bryk Fine Art has been in Iowa City since she moved to the area in 1990.

Her art career didn’t start here, however.

Bodkin Bryk has been oil painting since she was a 9-year-old growing up in New York. At the age of 16, she started selling her work in art shows and fairs to earn money for college.

Uniquely, the artist has degrees in science and math — none in art. Early in her career, she worked in information technology, research, and teaching.

But she never gave up on her artwork and continued to paint on the weekends.

Now, being an artist is her main profession.

Bodkin Bryk said she mainly focuses on photorealism and hyperrealism pieces, a type of artwork that duplicates real-life images to look like a photograph.

“Most people feel comfortable with representational art because they feel like they [understand] it,” she said. “That’s why my work appeals to many people.”

The Chait Galleries Downtown, 218 E. Washington St., has displayed her artwork since 2006. Owner Benjamin Chait said of the estimated 150 other artists displayed at his location, she is a crowd favorite.

“She’s one of my favorites,” he said. “She’s [also] one of our more popular artists [with customers].”
Customers of Bodkin Bryk’s art come from all over. Her pieces can be found in buyers’ homes in New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Iowa City.

“[In New York] one time, I went to a party and saw my artwork on the wall,” she said, smiling. “I find it a remarkable and humbling thing that people spend their income on artwork.”

She has three displays of art located across town, including her “Treasure Island” piece on the Pedestrian Mall, a Iowa City Public Library commission.

Prices of her work range from $100 up to $5,000.

Husband Mitch Bryk says she works every day on her art.

“Although she does have outside interests, the place where she likes to spend the majority of her time is in the studio,” he said.


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