When I hear the word “Expressionism” I think of Abstract Expressionism, the American post-war art movement centered in New York and characterized by gestural brushstrokes and marks. I also think of Expressionism, a style of artwork, particularly painting, in which the
artist distorts the subject in an effort to connect to emotions or ideas. And finally, I think of Neo-Expressionism with its vivid colors and contrasts, distorted subject matter; and spontaneous technique and compelling methods of production. The artists of this month’s Cerulean Arts Collective Exhibitions— Laurence Bach, Kitty Caparella, Jeanne O’Shell, Stephanie Rogers, and Ruth Wolf— each fit into one or more of these categories of Expressionism.
Light Path is the name of the series of layered digital prints presented by Laurence Bach. Although each print was presented in a framed, rectangular format, the compositions within the rectangle are circular. This made me feel as though I were looking through a hole in a wall or through a monocular. Sqiggles or shafts of light rays built into the composition supported this sense of looking closely from a distance. But it also provided another shape, another component into the many layers of objects, not all of which followed logical rules. In Light Path #13 two versions of a landscape shot through bushes are shown—one blurry and lightened, one crisp but smaller and tilted. A segment of a cypress dangles, up-side down, out of the circle. Two archlike white shapes interrupt from the left. This does two things: it focuses attention on the limited palette of white, black, and greens and it creates shapes resembling leaves. Light Path #25 is very different. I
And Laurence Bach will be offering a workshop at Cerulean Arts. The workshop is December 7th and December 8th. For more information
Kitty Caparella works in encaustic, usually on wood, although there is one piece on paper here.
Encaustic, for those unfamiliar, is a process of painting with hot wax. This is an important factor to her artwork as the medium she chooses leads to specific effects. Pigment suspended in wax is rich in color. It can be molded to create dimension by incision or relief. The fusing of the wax can make a smooth, almost frosting-like surface that glows and is very resilient. All this is true for Caparella’s artwork but she uses these positives in different ways in her Abstractions and Geo-Abstractions. For example, A World Within, the most lyrical of her works, shows a blue-gray field that smolders. Into this haze, from the left and the bottom, organic shapes in creamy white, green, and red erupt. Is this a Romantic impression of Nature or a description of a state of meditation or mystic connection? In Looking Sharp different colors of encaustic material interrupt each other to make horizontal stripes of various widths. Into this, narrow yellow vertical lines are drawn taking this composition from decorative design to a wonder of intrusion. Blue Mist, the aforementioned encaustic on paper, demonstrates Caparella’s ability to build with layers of pigment to create more than just interesting texture but light as well. Light, or the appearance of radiance through contrast, appears in many of her pieces-- Electric Sky, Oncoming, Path of Intrigue, Fragile Memory, to name a few.. Onc
Jeanne O’Shell weaves her way to making her artwork. Sometimes it is paint on canvas layered to create a picture; sometimes it is wool to make a wall hanging rich in texture. Both have a color scheme based in “pretty”, meaning light and pastel-like hues, to very different results. Her paintings use an old Barbie Doll, hair askew, as subject. Strangely, even though Barbies are a staple to “fashion dolls” and even feminine beauty and agency, each of these paintings take on a more personal symbology. This starts with the paint; scumbled in some places, smooth in others, with a matte quality to it. The palette of pinks, purples, cream, with touches of blue should be delicate but, for me, resembles a bruise. O’Shell’s paintings hit me more as an ag-gressive act rather than a nostalgic one. Three of them, Ballerina, Sky Dancer #4, and Sky Dancer #1 present as portraits; a larger, Tummy Ache, focuses on the body. In Sky Dancer #4, most of the hair is pulled up and fastened with a bow on top of the head. A curl loops around one eye making Barbie appe
Most of Jeanne O’Shell’s gallery is filled with her woven fiber works. These are generally small works running from 4 inches to 10 inches across and 9 to 16 inches long. They are displayed hanging from a wood dowel, au naturel. Some are of a simpler design like Strawberry Shortcake and
Neapolitan. Others, like Dragon Fruit with its speckled areas and Poppies with its flowers and pompoms are more complex. Most are named for confections in food or drink which is fitting to their frothy exuberance. But these pieces are enjoyable from more than one sense— to look and to touch. And they move, from their hanging on the wall to the dance of the fringe and plumes to the wedge shapes of the interchanging yarns of each. Swim, the title of one piece, is an action word as well as a noun. This weaving done in blues and whites typifies how O’Shell creates an experience out of changes of pattern, direction, and texture. It reminds me of watching waves on a beach.
Have you ever had a waking dream? Well, I have, and it was in the gallery with Stephanie
Rogers’s artwork. All her paintings in this exhibition deal with the landscape, and there is a kind of bliss to them. As I look at these works I think of several artists—Cecily Brown for their sprawling brushwork and feminine vitality, Marc Chagall in their imaginary quality and personal
symbolism, and Joan Mitchell who said, “I paint from remembered landscapes that I carry with me—and remembered feelings of them, which of course become transformed.” A Fish Flies in the Sky fits this description perfectly. We can see the gray clouds of a passing storm at the top while a watery blue , like a lake with a fish, is under. A Tree with a circle (is that the sun or moon?) breaks through the sky. Beneath the tree is a blue shape that resembles the leafy part of the tree. I can choose whether it is shadow or pool, and I choose water. It is dotted with pinks. The rest of the landscape of greens creates a hill giving way to brown lowlands. The lowlands spout out formations in pinks and golds. The general washiness makes me think that this could be a dream or remembered experience, but it could equally be a scene at the bottom of an aquarium. In any case, it produces all the feelings of standing in the world after a storm. In Over the Rainbow, a crisper landscape, there are the prerequisite “rainbow colors” of the title. There is also a nod to the movie in that a yellow, zig-zag path is constructed in the middle. This path is mirrored by an orange path to its left. I think of “The Road Not Taken” and even of happy and difficult paths in life. It also makes me think of the Louis Armstrong song “What a Wonderful World”. As it is so close to Thanksgiving, I have to include Turkey Eating the Universe. A large bird takes up most of the composition. It is comprised of various blues and sits on a textured nest. Its beak is open and around its head is a white cloud. Perhaps the turkey is inhaling, perhaps exhaling this cloud. A dull sun sits in the top, right corner, another character in this story. The turkey, a symbol of natural abundance, is a great reminder of the position we have placed our planet— eating away at our own resources.
For her exhibition at Cerulean Arts Collective Members' galleries, Ruth Wolf offers both paintings and prints. Most of these works improvise on portraiture. Some like the piece
Antipode - HE and the piece Antipode - SHE are made up of multiple canvases; others like Invisible People - Gloria, Invisible People - Greta, Invisible People - Jennifer are single subject. None of these portraits are exact replicas of a particular person; rather, you identify by and identify with the manner Wolf uses to construct them. In Antipode – HE, she has nine separate mixed media heads that range from sinister to placid, vexing to vexed, and even a monkeylike face. Is she trying to construct examples of the male character or is she, as the title implies, saying (as with the term "Antipode") that our projection on male types is misguided? Similarly, there is Antipode - SHE. Here the faces and heads of women are portrayed as compassionate, suffering, masked, even secretive, and with plenty of eye-makeup. Even a panel of eyes is included. These faces have allure and the colors and materials like lace and wallpaper evoke femininity. Which leads me to two questions: Is Wolf questioning the illusion of a “pretty face”? Or is she, with the word “Antipode” in her title, suggesting women as sirens to a cause, maybe even a bad one?
Multiple parts play a role in other works. Broken Book has twelve square panels each showing a scene or object that can be moved around on a peg board to construct your own visual
story. Behind the canvases on the pegboard on which they hang, as well as some of the different canvases themselves, are various other surprises. Tell Me a Secret is a black and gold artwork made on a fireproof tarp divided into four quadrants. Eyes and hands appear across the bottom, wavy lines like energy and shrouded heads across the top. Each of the faces of the shrouded figures is in an emotional state. The eyes in the bottom shift in direction and disappear behind vertical bars on the bottom, right. A gray, narrow, horizontal belt of fabric separates the top heads from the bottom bars making this bottom quadrant into a cage. Tell Me a Secret is stunning-- both astonishing and beautiful.
Eyes are not only of import to the expression in many of Wolf’s artworks, but also are a subject in and of themselves in three of her prints shown at Cerulean Arts. Eyes Test Page 1, Birds, and Blue. In Eyes Test Page 1 sets of eyes are informally arranged on a page, even to a point where some are slightly cropped by the page edge. Somewhere, in looking at the page you begin to misalign the pairs putting eyes that are closer into pairs. This leads to strange “head-fellows”. In Blue and in Birds Wolf has inserted the suggestion of a figure and vertical curtain device. In Birds the eye shape morphs into a mouth that could also be a bird shape as they seem to be in a migratory pattern. In Blue the eyes pass through the curtain to become lips then further morph into a pattern of curves.
This Cerulean Arts Collective Members’ Exhibition of the artwork by Laurence Bach, Kitty Caparella, Jeanne O’Shell, Stephanie Rogers, and Ruth Wolf can be seen through December 8th. To view and even purchase pieces go to https://ceruleanarts.com/pages/artists then click on the artist’s name. Below is the Instagram #OneMinuteCrit for #WhatsArtBlog for each artist. Enjoy!
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