"Summer Afternoon: Water" at West Branch Gallery
Water and oxygen are the most important elements for sustaining human life. We cannot live without water. Water surrounds us. We play in it. We live on a water planet. It should not be surprising, therefore, that water is often a theme found in art. Drawings by the great Renaissance painter and inventor Leonardo da Vinci give us a sense of water’s movement and dynamic quality.
Water is complex. Depending on the season, the depth and clarity, be it a pond, river, lake or ocean, all water is not equal. An artist must consider the angle of the sun and the resulting reflections of light off the surface and under the water. Every aspect affects the color and light. Painting water is a complex endeavor.
Four West Branch artists have taken on this task in the new show, Water, opening June 5 and running until July 30, 2015.
One of the artists, Mariella Bisson, was born beside a lake in Vermont and then lived many years on the banks of a river. “For me, painting water is painting the never-ending flow of life itself,” she said. “My challenge is to make white feel heavy in powerful waterfalls plunging and with skimming glazes and staccato strokes to punctuate the ever-changing surfaces of moving water.” Four of Mariella’s paintings are in the Water show, all featuring waterfalls. She works first at the site, drawing and painting in watercolor and gouache, avoiding the use of photography. Then, in her studio, she creates a larger work using mixed medium on linen. A recipient of two Pollock Krasner Foundation awards, as well as a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Painting, Bisson has mastered a new and exciting way to use collage to create mixed media paintings using oil paint.
The work of Rebecca Kincaid can be seen in two new paintings. Both are large oils on linen, depicting summer frolics in water. One, Cannonball No. 83, shows two children splashing onto the water in the classic tucked position. The second painting, Fetch (Birch Branch), is of a swimming dog with a stick in his mouth, eager for more. Paint and wax are layered, dripped and scraped. Kincaid said, “These paintings are about the beauty and magic of summer, based on my memories. Details and figures remain ambiguous, inviting the viewer to seek something of themselves in the work.”
Craig Mooney, a well known West Branch artist, offers two paintings of the sea. Both are oil on canvas, using a technique that makes the paintings look still wet. “My work can be described as gestural,” he said, “impressionism with a contemporary bent. Details are generally left out, leaving the viewer to decide what’s going on.” Mooney uses thick impasto layers of paint creating a dreamy, evocative landscape; compelling in its epic evocation.
With a BFA from RISD and a MFA from UMASS at Dartmouth, Carol O’Malia rounds out the Water show with four oil paintings which kindle the pure joy of summer. One, Marking Time, shows a lawn chair and child’s inner tube on a dock by the water, in the ready. In “The Getaway”, a young man appears to have just jumped onto a raft in the middle of a lake. O’Malia captures the feel of silky lake water, the anticipation of resting on the dock, along with the readiness of a splash in the lake – evoking the laziness of a warm afternoon. Both of these paintings are beckoning the viewer to jump in the lake and bask on a hot summer’s day.
Van Gogh said, “It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to.” These four artists paint this language beautifully. And, as Henry James wrote, “The two most beautiful words in the English language are summer afternoon.” These painters couldn’t agree more.
"Water" is on view at West Branch Gallery June 5 - July 30, 2015.