“Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better,” wrote Vincent van Gogh to his brother, Theo, in 1874. “Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see.” Van Gogh’s sage advice to his brother encapsulates a view toward the natural world commonly held by artists throughout time. Since humans first began drawing and painting their surroundings, the natural landscape has had a place in art. As this same land was cleared for settlements, villages, and, eventually, megalopolises, rural and urban developments similarly encroached upon the painted composition. Nature, both wild and tamed, is at the heart of the paintings on view in “A Sense of Place,” Seager Gray Gallery’s summer exhibition, featuring new works by Jeffrey Beauchamp, Kristen Garneau, Kim Ford Kitz, Suzanne Onodera, and Carole Pierce. These five contemporary artists have taken stock of the land, and show us its colors, magnificence, shifting light and weather, and its symbolism, in compositions ranging in scale and degree of abstraction.
Jeffrey Beauchamp merges representation with abstraction in his bright, bold works, centered upon energetically painted landscapes devoid of human presence and filtered through human imagination. In such incongruously titled works as Never too Proud to Rock that Hillbilly Lingerie or The New Day Drags its Heavy Skirts (both 2014), a sky suffused with golden light and filled with soft clouds rests above land composed of an exuberant tangle of gestural, numerously colored brushstrokes. Kim Ford Kitz also combines direct observation with imagination in her scenes of the patchwork of farmers’ fields and small villages blanketing the earth and stretching into a seemingly infinite distance. In her more intimate, quieter compositions, Carole Pierce focuses on a moment in time. Blooming (2014), for example, is filled with a flurry of delicate white flower petals, blown here, there, and everywhere by a gust of wind, while Morning Heat (2014) is radiant with the visibly rising flush of heat off the land at daybreak. So wander out of the heat of summer and into these varied landscapes—it’s okay to get lost.
“A Sense of Place” is on view at Seager Gray Gallery August 1 – 28, 2014.