- By Carol Taylor-Kearney
Summer: A Time to Meet New Artists!
Part 1: Cerulean Arts Associate Collective Members Exhibition
Summertime is a time of heat. And what is hotter than meeting new artists and new artwork?! So, I was very excited when I not only received the invite to attend the opening for Cerulean Arts Gallery’s 7th Annual Juried Exhibition but also something new— Cerulean Arts Associate Members Exhibition. The Associate Members program is a result of the success of Cerulean Arts Collective. Fortunately, and unfortunately, for Cerulean Arts there are more and more artists who would like to become members but not enough open slots; for other artists it is the responsibility of membership that waylays them. The Associate Membership allows artists who cannot create a solo exhibition in 18 months (the standard time between solo shows of members), to instead present a handful of pieces per year, and decreases the financial burden of membership.
The new Associate Members of Cerulean Arts Collective are:
Jean Burdick (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/jean-burdick),
Laura Eyring (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/laura-eyring),
Dora Ficher (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/dora-ficher),
Mindy Flexer (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/mindy-flexer),
Nancy Halbert (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/nancy-halbert),
Marguerite Heilman (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/marguerite-heilman),
Joanne Karpowitz (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/joanne-karpowitz),
Alan Lankin (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/alan-lankin),
Alice Lesnick (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/alice-lesnick),
Anne Marble (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/anne-marble),
Pat Moran (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/pat-moran),
and Lee Muslin (https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/lee-muslin).
Cerulean Arts Collective is presently filled with their artwork until July 28th. And, if you cannot make it to Cerulean Arts by the 28th, take a gander by clicking on the links placed after each artist’s name!
As for the exhibition itself… 96 pieces in all covering painting, encaustic, print and papermaking, reverse ink on glass, and sculptural ceramics. Distributed throughout the five gallery spaces and the hallway in such a manner as to allow each artists’ works to be kept in close proximity while also allowing each individual piece its distinction.
My first encounter is with
acrylic paintings and silk-screen prints of Jean Burdick. Her subject is the fine filigree of trees and her ways of handling this are both elegant and varied. North View II is made up of four ten-by-ten squares of overlapped tree patterns ranging from yellow to a blue-violet to a warm black. The yellow and violet become the background for the silhouetted, dark trees that form a lattice moving up the four canvases. Although any one of them is a strong enough composition to be on their own, I am glad to see that Burdick is keeping them together. Next to these is Mirror Lake a silkscreen on vellum made up of three screens—a sgraffito-looking brown pattern that represents a hill, a cloudy blue sky, and opaque silvery-gray trees growing up from the bottom to the top of the page. It is lustrous! With Mirror Lake Road I have to mention Marsh because it uses this silvery-gray technique to a real communicative advantage. Within the branches and growths sits a shimmering bird. By its shape it is a rail—a bird known for its secretiveness (you usually only hear them) and found in marshland. The largest and most complex of Burdick’s pieces is Fish Lake. It combines all her efforts in the smaller works to create space out of the coloring, pattern, and layering that she does so well.
In the same gallery room I find the paintings of Nancy Halbert. Two landscapes make a
separation from her figurative works. What relates this group— landscapes and figures-- to each other is not so much the abstract quality, nor the muted color, but the layering of drawing and painting, preliminary markings and latter penumbra. You can see the artist’s mind at work as she creates these pieces along with the movement of her body in the strokes. Her figurative paintings remind me of Willem de Kooning’s “Woman” series. In both, one can see the outline of the body forms by line or against the ground. However, Halbert is softer in color, her strokes of paint curvier and less thrashing, and she relieves us of looking at those garish eyes and blood-red smile making these paintings
seem about the feminine and grace as opposed to directness and force. Looking at Degas Dancer, for example, one sees the oval of the head, the round shoulders, the legs that seem to be in movement. But two bursts of white are representing, perhaps, the tutu, come in at the left-side of the canvas. Yet, without looking at the title it seems that this is equally the painting of a goddess against a blue-gray sky obscured by two conjoined clouds as a dancer in costume. Just as powerful as any “Woman” by deKooning or any ballet dancer by Degas, here it is both more ephemeral and approachable as a symbol. As for her landscapes I think of Richard Diebenkorn’s “Berkley” series. And like Diebenkorn, Halbert is an expert at tracking. In Into the Sky the colorfully busy bottom and sides are released in a blinding flash of white in the blue of the sky. In Maple Syrup Runs Through, a sandwich composition surrounds an area of a funnel at the top running down into a brown and green area that opens like a road. Noteworthy in all her compositions is a sense of movement, though of different kinds. In the figurative paintings it is as the subject, the model is moving because of the arcs and underpainted curves present. In the landscapes, these same kind of marks arches, dividers, and curves move the viewer through the still landscape painting.
The other figurative painter of this bunch is Mindy Flexer whose four nicely-sized works are
across from each other. This allows me to see them as pairs and relate them as a whole. (It also must be noted that Mindy Flexer is one of the artists included in the Cerulean Arts 7th Annual Juried Exhibition. So check that out, too) What all four have in common is a candy-colored palette, birds in flight, and human shapes. Everywhere, Always and Gratitude, both 24 inches by 36 inches, have clouds of birds. But these are not just any kind of murmuration. The flocks are made up of creatures closer in look to origami cranes than natural starlings or gulls. In this way I interpret these paintings to be conveyers of hope and blessings. After all, to make 1,000 cranes is to receive a blessing. Golden Spiral and Chagall and Me have similar hues but very different characters. First are the more menacing looking black birds that seem to spiral throughout both paintings. In Golden Spiral a diminishing-sized group in the top right grow larger in size and descend to a confrontational, wide wing-spread specimen looking and flying straight at the viewer. Behind these highly contrasted shapes are figures of floating bodies, white clouds and birds, sunshiny blue sky. In the left corner is a portrait of a couple reminiscent of a photo from a gate or anniversary. Their color blend them into the background while their detail indicates “known”. Are they a memory? Is this memoriam? That the black birds make a spiral in their flight pattern would suggest so. Chagall and Me is the darkest in color of this group but with its golden spiral lighting it from the center out, it heralds the infinite of the cycle of life.
In the next room are the ceramics of Jane Karpowitz. These are not your traditional ideas of
ceramic as in cups, bowls, and other utilitarian or decorative vessels. These are sculptural forms reminding me of the bronzes. Why? Part of the reason may be found in Karpowitz’s technique. She shapes the clay into large lumps or thick planes that she affixes to one another. Moreover, she burnishes the surfaces after firing which gives them a natural luster and sometimes rubs in pigment, too. In many ways these resemble a patina. Aside from being beautiful, this also allows her to create variety and texture while keeping a sense of faithfulness to the material she is using—the clay. For example, in Seascape the piece is made of parts resembling rocks, plant, shell, and reed or wood. They are enhanced by color in different sections to appear like detritus that has washed up onto the shore. In Merging there appears to be two rounded forms, differentiated by color, being rolled by one another. My favorite, though, is Seeking Shelter. The bottom half is of a nubby texture, the top smoother but variegated. Two half-circle shapes support another, larger, but just as Thin half-circle, edgy shapes. All together there is a semblance of a wobbly woman with one arm curved and raised to protect her head, the other wrapped in protection of her torso. There is much to see and imagine in these pieces, but their real charm is how much you want to pick them up and handle them!
In the same gallery are the colorful abstractions by Lee Muslin. Muslin is another artist who relies on her materials to tell her story—and that story is about color, shape, and the interaction of soft edges and hard edges. In A Sense of Place a crisp white circle with embossed lines whirls in the upper right sending drips of paint falling straight down causing the circle’s motion to feel stopped. Tiny splotches and fine lines also appear on a surface of vivid and nebulous hues. This is a playful piece where the circle feels like a target, but that target, if it wants, could be washed away or moved. A foursome of small square canvases also catches my eye-- Hold on Tight, Looking Out, Remember When, Lost in a Dream. Each of these paintings have wiry and spring-like forms jumping through them. Again, there are the cloud like configurations but sometimes a more solid and patterned shape is there, too. In all of Muslin’s paintings there is no sense of space, no push-pull of color. Instead there is a plasticity, a possibility of action and reaction.
The first painting I looked at from Laura Eyring, I thought of the stained glass windows in
a cathedral because it just glowed with color and transported me to a metaphysical space. It is called Stained Glass Woods and I think that this is a suitable title of her entire exhibition. Lead gray or dark blue tree trunks span these compositions turning them vertical. Webbed lines branch out connecting the tree trunks while fracturing the picture plane like cracks. The
ground is an atmosphere of dots of color. Together they create the space of a fairytale forest, mysterious yet inviting. In some I think of confetti—trees celebrating trees as in the aforementioned Stained Glass Woods. In others the dots of color blend to become different surfaces as in Into the Woods. Shadow, light, grass, horizon, sun, atmosphere glow between the punctuated blue bars of diminishing size and color until they, like you, become one with the painting.
Pat Moran is presenting artworks on glass. Reverse painting on glass, or in this case ink on
glass, has been around as a decorative art for centuries—popular for icons in the Middle Ages, folk art scenes, even for clock-faces in the 19th century They are made by applying layers of medium (ink, paint) starting with the hi-lights and foreground and moving to the background-- that is, the “reverse” of how panel paintings are made. They are viewed through the glass side having the glass act as a “varnish”, a layer to unify the paint strokes and
that sets up a particular perspective to the scene. Although each is monochromatic, don’t expect black and white only. Moran’s paintings can range from black to brown to even blue, each of which provide a very different effect and mood. For example, In Another Time, a piece near the entry to the gallery room, there is a sense of memory, perhaps nostalgia. Part of this is the result of the almost scattershot
placement of the discernible figures/objects. Another is the windswept diagonal brushstrokes. As a whole it appears to be a series of vignettes brought together to create a single-scene story that recalls memories brought together. Another piece, Cumulus Nimbus shows clouds. Done in blue ink, the build up of the ink layers not only creates contrast but the vagaries of light. In looking at Moran’s beautiful work I am also aware of the handsome way he has handled framing. In pieces like the whimsical Play Time or the emotional Turmoil Moran frames the work like an etching, allowing the ink to soften toward the edge of the page. In many other works like the earlier mentioned Cumulus Nimbus and All the World’s a Stage he has divided the artwork from the frame with a textured, white separator. This reinforces the sense of looking into another world or time, and of preservation of an artifact or relic.
Anne Marble uses the powerful figure of the spiral and the triskele, a three-legged spiral.
Spirals are ancient symbols of the path of life while the triskele represents trilogies such as life-death-rebirth, past-present-future, land-sea-sky, anima-physis-spiritus. Given the titles of her artworks she has derived these from ancient sites in Ireland. Most are casted papers presented as uneven-edged remnants. But these are not pieces, rather
they are elaborately patterned and textured wholes. In Bru na Boinne Marble suggests the World Heritage site of Neolithic graves at the bend of the river Boyne (Boyne Valley) where this symbol graces the entries to tombs and stones found in the area. The quality of the symbol is raised from the weathered ground making it appear to be a marking on a skin like a scab. In another work, Celtic Swirl, much more colorful than some of the others, the three spirals that seem linked are shown going in opposite directions—the two bottom clockwise, the top counter-clockwise. They appear to float on a river of red and blue stripes that conform to the spirals’ outer curve while two others arc away from the spirals, one inside the other, above, suggesting sky. Celtic Bull and Celtic Stone are different versions of the same symbol—the former cast paper, the latter a monoprint—displayed in such a way as to make both appear as an object not a representation of an object. There are also some imaginative monotypes my favorite being I’m Here featuring a spotted bird.
Dora Ficher works in encaustic and in styles as varied as geometric abstraction (as in Journey),
Impressionistic representation (as in Poppy World), and Expressionistic script (as in Birds in Flight). This leads to a sense that I am seeing samplings of different oeuvres. In all, her colors are luscious and for the most part her surfaces are thick and smooth or roughened to create pattern. Encaustic used in this way often leads to a sense of encasement like a bug trapped in resin or a cloudy cover-up. But not here. The color feels solid and dense. And as with encaustic work, it is difficult not to touch it. This is especially true in her Layers 1 – 4 which include a horizontal bar and the previously cited Journey. In Fisher’s largest piece, From the Boat, a work that shows her expertise in using her medium as conveyance you can see the careful geometry of the circular, orange sun against the modulating blue sky, the layered and worked surface of yellow, red, and green fashioning the land, and the translucent blue water that covers an under-painting of orange shapes.
In the same gallery are Marguerite Heilman’s cloud-filled landscapes. The paint of these is
expressionistically applied in swoops overtaking other swoops. You literally feel the changing weather pattern and the current of the blowing wind in these skies. On the other hand, the land, as thickly applied as the shies, has a hard edge that makes it stable, perhaps never-changing. In works like Filtering Down I and Filtering Down II, as well as The Works and
many others, the heavens are animated, differentiated, in flux while the green “earth” portions are sharply defined and equally opaque with paint. These sections can be rolling, set as a diagonal, or straight. These opposing conditions does not set up so much a representation of the natural world—there is no curvature to the earth here—but a set up of time. The slow-moving land verses the swift shifting sky. Several paintings like Evening Glow, West, West Southwest unfold from green at the bottom to a warm yellow or orange midland to the blues of the sky. I feel as if I am in the center of a circle that is enclosing me, wrapping me in its warmth of their soft light.
When I saw Spring Thing, Gravity 1, and Gravity 2 by Alice Lesnick in the hallway I was delighted by the quirkiness and the limited means she was using to communicate. A handful of shapes—circles and accent lines, circles and thicker curvy lines made playful images that I could swear made noise like squeaks, hiccups, or slides. Inside there were two more complicated paintings, Phone on Wire and Shall We that deployed some elements of this simplified language. The other pieces were heavily painted abstractions of what appeared to be interior spaces as in Welcome to the Theater and the exteriors of buildings as in One Night and Another Night. Another Night, which is tucked into a corner, is really a gem. It is set up in a grid of black and near-black lines create spaces lit with color. Some resemble windows with light, some suggest a darkened but saturated blue hallway, two others have step shapes—one in blue another in red. The piece glows bigger than its small size. In all of Lesnick’s work there is a sense of discovery as though she is taking me along with her as she tries marks out—they are idiosyncratic. In this way they resemble children’s art. I come away not sure which I prefer—the elegance of the clearer pieces or the Art Brut, the raw expression of the more labored ones.
Hey! Who said that Cubism is a dead-end? And who believes that buildings are stationary objects? Certainly not Alan Lankin. Lankin depicts high-rise structures in primary colors in a guileless way. In paintings like City Buildings these are arranged like playing cards spread across the canvas. In Frameworks (18/30) a pinwheel shape is superimposed over the buildings making for a carnival atmosphere. While in Territory broad bands reminiscent of a subway map are overlaid on the structures setting up a wild ride. The paint quality seems important to the meaning of these pieces. Looking at it the suggestion is that these are done in a wet-on-wet technique. I am guessing this not so much because there is a quick quality to the brushstrokes but also because the paint lacks the clean and plastic appearance of acrylic. It could be that he thins his paint with water or matte medium somehow retaining the look of poster paint fitting for his sophisticated and naïve work.
As mentioned, if you have not or will not have a chance to see all the artworks of the Associate Collective Members Exhibition before it closes, click on the links in the third paragraph, above, to see each artists’ contributions. And stop by Cerulean Arts where there will be a rotating show of each artists’ work.
#JeanBurdick #LauraEyring #DoraFicher #MindyFlexer #NancyHalbert #MargueriteHeilman #JoanneKarpowitz #AlanLankin #AliceLesnick #AnneMarble #PatMoran #LeeMuslin #CeruleanArts #CeruleanArtsCollective #CarolTaylorKearney