Thursday, May 12, 2016

Gallery One, Connecticut: To See and Be Seen

The artists of Gallery One: ten artists, working without their own gallery space, but working, as one of their members says, “with the strength of ten,” exhibiting where they will.  Their current show is on through this Sunday, May 15, 2016, at the Mill Gallery in The Guilford Art Center.

Here is what the artists say about themselves on their website, where the show is always on, :

Gallery One is an association of mid-career artists working in a wide variety of media and styles from representational to abstract, including painting, sculpture and works on paper.  Our vision is to provide Southeastern Connecticut with a stimulating resource and to support one another as artists

In the absence of patronage of church, guild or wealthy merchant, artists have to find their own way “to see and be seen.”  Commissions are rare; artists have the freedom to “see” and choose our own subjects, which sounds lovely. Yet the absence of patrons also means that, in the absence of a guaranteed space (a church window or a parlor-room wall), we must find our own ways to “be seen.”  Gallery One does not pay a year-round lease ... they move.  Their shows (every few months, as a group, and artists also exhibit on their own) exert a little more pressure on the viewing audience: find us, because here is something special. Here is a breath of fresh air, a space to wander, for two or three weeks only, for now: a terrific idea.

And it seems to be working rather well.  I have just seen their show in The Guilford Art Center, up through this weekend. I wrote about one of the gallery artists, Judith Barbour Osborne (this blog, May 10, 2016).  At Guilford, I spoke to another of Gallery One’s artists, Diana Rogers, who explained about the gallery as a group and then talked about her own process.  Rogers says that she does a layer of “underpainting” with her pastels first, which, I think, makes her final version that much more open to suggestion.  Here is her “Marsh Grasses, Mid Summer,” a work in pastel on sanded paper:

I am drawn to the separate, abstracted bits of color here.  The materials and gestures suggest flowers and grasses without going into fussy detail; the mix of colors allows viewers to create the final mix of colors and shapes themselves, as they would if they were walking through the landscape.  Here is another pastel, “Marsh and Sky, Summer Palette”:

and a detail:

The marks have a beauty and a depth all their own.  Close to, we can see the artist’s hand and her view as she was creating this piece; farther away, the colors merge in our minds into those watery paths to the sea.  It’s very hard, a collector friend of mine said once, to get the greens right in a painting; Rogers has captured them perfectly, without using every other color to rein them in. This is a limited palette that busts with color.

Another painter who suggests -- without filling in every line -- is Catherine Christiano. Her cottages have that summer haze over them, the one we all find at the Connecticut shore. She’s got it just right, here, in “Cottages, Hawk’s Nest #4”:

I was lucky enough, a million years ago, to stay in that red cottage for a week; I would look back from the Sound and see the house shimmering in the heat.  We don’t need to see each individual shingle in these paintings, because we don’t when we are looking, even if we are really looking. We put the picture together in our heads.  And we are grateful for the chance to make that momentary image.

And then, moving around in the gallery, I see glowing abstract works. Gray Jacobik says, on her website ( , that “my art is two-fold: imagination-brought-to-bear upon received images joined with the rapidly transforming events of process, the entirety a means of making sense.”  Jacobik arrives at her worktable with ideas and expectations, but does allow the materials (encaustic on cradled panel, most often) and accidents to move the work forward, and the exchange continues, back and forth: “ I may go through 4-5 metamorphoses before the final work emerges,” Jacobik says. Her titles sound as though she paints realistically, and, in her own way, she does. Here is “The Sea Mollified”:

I had to look up “mollified”; it isn’t a word I use every day! Jacobik is also an award-winning poet, with a national reputation, so the wording of her titles is quite deliberate.  But “mollified” means appeased, soothed... can the sea be mollified?

Is this painting calling up the image of a calm sea? The work is beautiful; I stood before the painting for a long time. Turquoise waters, pictured (abstractly!) here, generally offer an invitation to wade in and cool off.  Serenity. Yet this water is reaching upwards, moving in a great wave.... in life such a wave would make lifeguards nervous and vigilant.  But the title is the one certainty we have, so the soothing of the sea must come from treating the work of art as itself.  This is a mollified, imagined, controlled sea, on a canvas small enough to carry.

Jacobik’s painting “I Saw It Raining Fire from the Sky” is also a beauty with a puzzling title:

If I were to begin a conversation with the sentence of this painting’s title, “I Saw It Raining Fire from the Sky,” I would frighten my listeners.  But, viewing the painting, we see a gorgeous combination of colors at ease with one another, filled with energy, yet well-matched in their opposing reds & oranges, blues & purples. Perhaps we have wandered into a dream that has been (encaustically) executed into a small portion of space. Jacobik’s paintings come from deep within, from experience and from art itself.

The show included ten member artists and two invited guests, Steve Llloyd and Deborah Hornbake.  These guest artists fit in perfectly as they, too, give us original and imaginative art. Here is Steve Lloyd’s “Forest Edge,” in full and in detail:

Again, he is... and isn’t... realistic. He makes the air circulate here.
And Deborah Hornbake’s “Caldaria Basin,” (ceramic with wood-ash glaze) is organic but somehow totally new; here it is from the side and then over the top:

There is much more to see on the Gallery One (Ct) website and at the show! I will be watching the artists of Gallery One. This was a wonderful day.

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