New England Review: Chatham and Williamstown galleries – Summer 2017
Greylock Gallery in Williamstown MA presents a variety of figurative painting in a range of renderings and style, from serene to expressive. Multiple points of view abound, yet all work embraces the real world as source of the paintings’ narratives. Tracy Helgeson and Hale Johnson address the iconic shape of a barn in austere landscape, Helgeson describing a New England classic as pure abstract form, Johnson noting individuality of texture and placement of architecture with a faithfulness to surface and color reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth. Mary Sipp Green’s landscapes seem to hover in a haze of late evening color, dimly outlining trees, paths and buildings as if they were a poetic memory. Stanley Bielen’s out-of-focus, intimate flower portraits shimmer as if bathed in summer light.
Teri Malo’s work stands out in its strength and eerie beauty. Her subject, the natural world, is given the attention of a long-beloved friend in tableaux of water and rock surfaces, where light and drifting leaves blend with reflections to create expanses of unusual beauty. Born in Massachusetts, she has studied New England’s geology, weather, seasons and plant growth on the coast of Massachusetts, Maine and further north. Painting in oil on panel, she uses elements of printmaking and water-based media to build up surfaces, keeping the whole in balance as she adds and subtracts layers of paint. Her paintings of granite rock faces as they meet water in such paintings express both the sheer ruggedness of massive rock that sheers into a pond, but also the delicate tracery of cracks that cut across its face, a kind of grid of age, contrasting with drifting lines of pale orange leaves that softly skim across the surface of the water. Soft areas juxtapose with crisply drawn surface technique, with pine trees noted above against a small jagged square of sky, in a satisfying combination of light/dark, figuration/expression much like nature itself.
In Malo’s Rejoice (36”x48,” 2016), the surface detritus of a pond is captured in yellow and orange, against a background of deep blue sky, soft imagistic reflection of dark trees below. The drift of motion is to the right, while reflected trees draw the eye downward in an almost musical phrase with notations and embellishments of floating leaves. Color is stepped up to a crescendo, where high cadmium red light blurs across the surface of a pond in huge shapes and wispy marks, as, again, the inverted reflected landscape pushes through the surface, bringing attention to the day, autumn light, trees, movement of time. The referents that anchor Malo’s paintings are lines of rock; verticals of trees, real or reflected; and drifting measures of color that are leaf, shadow, pollen, weed. Her solo show will be up from July 1–30 at the Greylock Gallery, 71 Spring St., Williamstown, MA 01267. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10am–5:30 pm, and Sunday 11am–4pm.
Chatham Fine Art in Chatham on Cape Cod represents fifty artists and is run by Bob and Phyllis Tortaro, who have operated major art galleries in New England since 1980. In the wide range of art the gallery offers, subjects range from water and beach scenes, boats, landscape, flower arrangements, graphic paintings of musicians, fifties photographic paintings, birds, fish, traditional still life, figure painting, portraits and trees, covering every major contemporary figurative category and genre. One gallery artist, Melanie Chartier, paints sensitive non-traditional oil still lifes. Instead of painting fruit or china, she paints collections of bottles, rocks and shells, in light that is strikingly natural, as in a landscape. Objects are seen frontally, Chardin-like, posed on simple wooden thick surfaces. The paintings are about light and atmosphere surrounding lovingly rendered simple natural objects. The humility of a pile of smooth rocks, or shells balanced one on top of another is refreshing, expressing simple delight in a summer’s day.
In Glow (11”x14,” oil, 2016), a cluster of worn rocks sits on a plank in front of the sea. Seen close up, the texture of the rocks: speckled, lined or cracked, is described in minute detail. Like old friends, rocks lean against each other, culminating in a pile capped by a simple small yellow shell; a second shorter pile includes three scallop shells nestled within each other. A smooth white cloth sweeps invitingly, diagonally, downward. The lines of the cloth, rocks and shell form a satisfying, balanced composition. The sky is pale orange and blue, like dawn, with orange highlights in the sea waves. Quietness and beneficent calm radiate from the scene, enveloped in a pale haze. Like a paean to the sun, the rocks suggest a totem or a cairn from a pantheistic civilization.
Purple Glass Rugosa (11”x14,” oil, 2015), consists of a pile of open clamshells and a transparent purple vase containing one vivid coral-red beach rose. In the distance tiny triangles of sailboats dot the horizon; the sky is blue-grey. Another white cloth is folded and draped across half of the plank, a study in whites, violet and neutral colors. The shadow of the vase registers as a blur of pink on the cloth, while the folds of the cloth seen through the purple glass read as a landscape of mountains and sky within a still life. The purple curve of the open clamshell accords with the color of the glass vase. The painting seems to be an invitation to savor the moment: the flowers’ evanescence and the open shells are almost a vanitas, the Netherlandish still life tradition of showing the passage of time and transience of life through natural objects that will necessarily change and die. Irregularities in the edge of the wood are mirrored in the lightly drawn scallops of waves in the foreground. All is quietly, gently observed as if in contemplation, yet there lurks the realization that someone or something could sweep these objects off their tenuous surface into the sea. It is this delicate balance, inclined toward the side of stability, that makes Chartier’s paintings so mesmerizing.
Chatham Fine Art is located at 492 Main St, Chatham, MA 02633. Summer hours are 10am–10pm daily.