The Lionheart Gallery Celebrates the Rebirth of Contemporary Art in New Orleans
May Exhibition Showcases Work of
Photographer Sandra Russell Clark and Abstract Painter Evert Witte
Pound Ridge, NY – (April 10, 2015) In keeping with the spirit of the season, when signs of life, resilient and renewed, spring up from places too long barren from the ravages of Mother Nature, Susan Grissom, director of the Lionheart Gallery at 27 Westchester Road in Pound Ridge, New York, is hosting a new exhibition that celebrates the flourishing art of two critically acclaimed New Orleans artists who lost everything ten years ago, before finding a touchstone of energy and inspiration in their beloved city. Opening on May 2 and running through June, the exhibition will showcase the haunting photography of Sandra Russell Clark, and the colorful abstract paintings of her husband, Evert Witte, many created anew after Hurricane Katrina wiped out the lives and livelihoods of thousands. The exhibition opens with a meet the artist reception from 5 pm to 8 pm on Saturday, May 2.
Published in leading magazines, including Vogue, Elle and the American Artist, Sandra Russell Clark is best known for her black and white images of New Orleans cemeteries and southern landscapes. Evert Witte, known internationally for medium to large-scale paintings and drawings, is an abstract painter whose works are architecturally structured and balanced with vertical and horizontal brushwork to suggest a deeper story. The Lionheart exhibition will be the first time Sandra Clark and Evert Witte are exhibiting their works together.
An award-winning photographer who has received honors and grants from leading arts organizations and has been exhibited and collected by museums in Louisiana, Texas, New York, Europe and Brazil, Sandra Clark was born and raised in New Orleans. She grew up playing in its Elysian fields and graveyards. Music filled her soul and stories shaped her imagination. She was raised in a household of women, strong and stoic, who shared tales of struggle and success. Her great grandmother, Cuban by birth, taught her the importance of honoring those who came before us and the possibility of miracles. Her mother, taken from her during her teenage years, introduced her to the realities of death. As a child, she was fascinated by the myriad cultural influences that thrived all around her. She found beauty in gardens where hope blossomed and grew and in cemeteries where love, seemingly lost, lived on.
It is these life experiences that resonate throughout her photography, pictorial tributes to images that fill her memories of Louisiana landscapes and misty Venetian streets. Before the hurricane washed away her entire portfolio, save the few negatives that were in the briefcase she fortuitously carried with her out of harm’s way, Clark had garnered critical acclaim for her themed-based series of works. Her 1980s Louisiana Dreamscapes celebrated the wetlands in a collection of black and white infrared photographs, toned and hand painted to create the ethereal ambiance she is so skilled at capturing. Her Gardens of Reflection captured the elegance of gardens in Europe and America, and her black and white photographs in Venice, A Vanishing Light, honed in on the city’s familiar canals, cemeteries and wetlands like the ones that had so captivated her back home.
But it is her memorable Elysium: A Gathering of Souls, a black and white chronicle of the 200-year cultural and religious history New Orleans’ above-ground cemeteries, and her mythical Mississippi Gulf Coast landscapes that starred in her In Search of Eden series, that are being reborn in her work today and that will be on exhibition at the Lionheart Gallery through June.
Clark states, "While searching for an Eden of my own, I moved to a small coastal town in Mississippi. This search brought my work full circle and back to the landscape of my native South, which was the subject of my first photographic series in the early 1980’s. This was a time of rediscovery for me, a time of reconnecting with the land that drew me on a journey of the senses along the Gulf of Mexico.
The coastlines along the Gulf have a lushness and sensuality unlike any other landscape. There is a sense of mystery and isolation, yet a beautiful and peaceful quality to the landscape. This region is unmistakably marked with a spirit of its own. Explorers, historians, writers, artists and musicians have been influenced by this region and by man's search for a place that is not only a physical one but one of myth and transcendence; a search for Eden."
After losing the vast majority of her film negatives to Katrina, Clark is now mastering the art of digital photography so that her perspectives on life and death can survive intact.
Netherlands native, artist Evert Witte, Sandra’s husband of 20+ years, found that his contemporary paintings became brighter after Katrina swept in with a darkness he had never before experienced.
“I was used to very bright light in the Netherlands,” said Witte, who started his career as a commercial illustrator and cartoonist in Europe, before making the transition to fine art in 1983 and showing his work throughout the Netherlands. He moved to the United States when he accepted a position as a visiting professor of painting and drawing at Loyola University in New Orleans in 1994. “The light in New Orleans was soft and misty with the humidity. There was always a haze and my paintings back then reflected that diffused atmosphere.”
That changed dramatically after Katrina, when his studio and hundreds of paintings and drawings were destroyed. He noticed the difference in light when he and Sandra, whom he met in New Orleans and married two years later, moved to Long Island for two years after the hurricane, then again in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he accepted an artist residency and was awarded a grant from the Jackson Pollack Foundation.
“My world became brighter and I wanted to paint louder and use more color than I had before,” he said. His paintings today are minimal in design, grid-like in construction, and abstract in style. His process is methodical as he builds up color layer upon layer, achieving a sense of balance in order and chaos in his finished piece.
“I never know where I will end up when I start. Each painting is an adventure that ends when everything has fallen into place. When I make a painting I try to tell a story, not one with a particular comprehensive narrative, but one made up of different references and from different perspectives. A story rooted in art history, social function, and politics, also in visual effectiveness and experiences. A story that leans on the formal and physical aspects of painting and its place in art today,” explains the artist.
He paints for himself, he says, but judging from all art aficionados who collect his works and the galleries that exhibit them, he also paints works that unequivocally delight other people as well. He has exhibited his work in museums and galleries in Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, New Mexico, Tennessee and Alabama, as well as in the Netherlands and Spain and his paintings hang in museum, private and corporate collections in the U.S. and the Netherlands. His awards include an artist residency in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a fellowship for travel and research and the visiting artist recognition at the American Academy in Rome.
The exhibition is open to the public from May 2 through June, Wednesday through Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm; Sundays from noon to 5 pm and by chance.
For more information and to see the work of Sandra Russell Clark and Evert Witte online, visit www.thelionheartgallery.com. For directions and inquiries, call the gallery at (914) 764-8689.