Abloom with Aplomb at Cerulean Gallery
As everyone in the Philadelphia area knows, March is not only the month when crocuses and daffodils begin to sprout and promise Spring, but the Philadelphia Flower Show makes its yearly appearance. Many of the areas other venues tie into the flower theme to give us the encouragement that warmer weather may be on its way—something especially needed after the snows of recent days. Cerulean Arts Gallery is doing its part by presenting “Abloom”, an exhibition of six very different artists and their take on the theme of “Flowers”. The artists included are Judy Caldwell, Elizabeth Heller, Millicent Krouse, Heidi Leitzke, Bruce Lewis, and Kerry Sacco.
Most of the 2-dimensional, wall-hung art is small or medium in size and it is arranged in a comely fashion that groups smaller, related pieces together to balance the larger works. But everything is distinctive in a way that allows for examination. And I must say that even though the day was a little gray when I visited, the gallery felt light.
Judy Caldwell may be using flowers as motif, but it is light that is subject. Her small pastels are loose without being amorphous and glow with a dry kind of color. Her larger acrylic paintings are specific to plant forms but also touch on cubism for their spaces. Each creates its own light like stained glass windows.
Elizabeth Heller presents us with both flowers arranged and arranged spaces. Her paintings of still lifes remind me of staged sets where the flower arrangement is the prima ballerina around which all action occurs. But there is a solidity to her compositions, a matter-of-factness. When I look at her work I get a sense of the real observed and processed, not the idealized.
This is in opposition to Millicent Krouse whose flower paintings remind me of John James Audobon’s Birds. There is a clean precision to each of her watercolors. These are perfect specimens, perfectly crafted with a singular focus on the flower even as they may have multiple objects. After seeing her colored pencil grouping , “Crotons, Pears, Porcelain Vase on Paisley”, I wonder what her approach to flowers in their natural setting would be.
Kerry Sacco makes oil paintings that are rich in color and rich in paint. Her brushwork is assured and lends direction and focus to her compositions. In four small oil on board paintings of a single flower and a single bird, she shares the colors of these to create an irregular backdrop that alludes to their surroundings. Her slightly larger landscapes build on a curve and complimentary colors to direct our eye—whether red poppies on green ground or yellowish arbors with purplish shrubs.
Bruce Lewis makes single archival prints out of what seems to be pieces of archival prints. (I am saying “seems” because on extremely close examination it appears that some of the flowers and plant shapes are layered over already printed flower and plant shapes.) The colors are brilliant and the feel is sumptuous.
Heidi Leitzke layers materials in her art works in a different way. Acrylic painted linen is overlaid with embroidery. The embroidery not only enhances features (like clouds, for example) but also creates the scene, the space. The texture that the thread creates makes one want to finger the surface making it even more intimate than (if this is possible) than the handmade quality of the stitching.
“Abloom” will be at Cerulean Arts (1355 Ridge Avenue Philadelphia, PA) through March 24th. They are open Wednesday through Friday 10 AM to 6 PM and Saturday and Sunday Noon to 6 PM. Take advantage, too, of looking at the art works at www.CeruleanArts.com.
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