The weather can’t make up its mind, but the Clark House Gallery’s bright new exhibition is a sure sign of spring.
After a dormant winter, the gallery has burst into bloom with “Gallery Artists: Recent Work From Realism to Abstraction,” a vibrant, surprising collection of works that packs the small gallery’s three show spaces. There will be an opening, during which visitors will have a chance to meet the artists, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 3.
“We haven’t been here for a while, so it’s a way of showing what our artists are doing now,” said Susan Maasch, owner of the Clark House Gallery on Hammond Street in Bangor.
They obviously have been busy.
In the alcove where Maasch used to display jewelry, a flock of Father Paul Plante’s pastel bird’s eyes watches over visitors as they enter the gallery. It’s a fitting welcome – though each eye realistic in its meticulous detail, is enlarged and cropped so closely that it could be mistaken for a small abstract painting.
That juxtaposition comes into play in each of the gallery’s rooms. In one, June Grey’s acrylic landscape paintings look like photographs at first glance, save for the sublime light and piercing bits of color. Her lavender and violet lupines nearly jump out of a soft green patch of grass. In “Thomas Point Park,” the water pooled in the tidal flats reflects a blue sky that looks both real and surreal at the same time.
“They’re almost photo-real,” Maasch said of Grey’s paintings, “but they’re a little more poetic than that.”
Dennis Pinette’s large-scale paintings of the Maine woods are as dark and mysterious as Grey’s paintings are bright and soothing. In one, stark white birches stand out from a clear sky. In the other, the underbrush looks like licks of fire, red with sparks of yellow against a dusky tangle of trees.
In muted tones, Stefan Pastuhov’s paintings focus on rural landscapes and a Bangor cityscape. In one, a summery dirt road leads you into the scene, inviting you to explore the red house beyond or stop in the field of wildflowers nearby. His view down Hammond Street in Bangor has a nostalgic, old-fashioned feel with its winter-washed hues – houses painted in chalky yellow and brick buildings the color of cherry-chocolate ice cream almost fade against a gray sky and a grayer road.
In the next room, a giant, abstract painting by Frederick Lynch is a modern contrast. His untitled oil examines shape, color, pattern and texture in bold design and color. At first glance, the work is flat, simple and stark, but if you look more closely, the sharp stripes in the work’s middle circle are thickly painted, their relief highlighted by the almost-clear gloss that covers the work. The turquoise background looks like a fresco, with bits of the underlayer showing through. It’s a painting that takes a minute or two to unfold.
In turn, it’s hard not to feel the pulse that drives Diana Young’s figurative cityscapes right away. They’re fun and sophisticated at the same time, filled with energy and verve. She uses her brush like a marker, adding motion with quick, expressive strokes, giving life to house painters in Bangor or movers in Portland.
Sally Stanton’s patchwork paintings look like shiny, abstract quilts, with repeating “icons” that give a visual language to interpret. Leaves, beans and flowers are painted on or worked into her painterly surfaces, at first just pretty, but on closer inspection, thought-provoking as well – is there a woman’s figure in the painting or is it part of the pattern? Stanton lets the viewer decide.
Heidi Daub’s bright, dreamy paintings are an interesting foil to Stanton’s. She paints trees that look like leaves, a waterfall falling into nothing, floating beds. They’re intentionally simple and purely engaging. Nancy Glassman’s inviting still lifes of flower posies, a bouquet of peonies, and houseplants by a window round out the group, with vibrant color and a welcoming feel.
As always, Robert Shetterly’s masterful work challenges expectations. In one painting, a red-lipped woman with a short, black ponytail holds up a too-big, spaghetti-strapped dress, while a pitcher and cup full of water tumble through the air. In the background, a staircase fades into the wall. It’s a bit voyeuristic, leaving the viewer feeling helpless and intrigued at the same time.
In contrast, Penelope Jones’ small, mixed media works are more a study of color and shape than the psyche. She cut painted paper into harlequin diamonds and postage-stamp edges and formed patterns in shades of hot coral and water blue and soft, soft green. They’re beautiful and complex, full of texture and possibility.
Francoise Gervais, whose work is new to the gallery, has a range of prints, large and small. Her giant photographs almost sit on top of watercolor paper – they look like you could just pick up the leaves, seed pods and feathers that she depicts. They look so real that Maasch has had many people ask if they could touch the prints, just to be sure. Her small transfer prints are pretty, dreamy, soft and hazy. They depict children on the beach or an island of trees, black and white images touched with pale blues and pinks.
Susan Dexter Camp’s prints on homemade paper are a rich interplay of subtle shading, pattern and texture. In her artist’s statement, Dexter Camp writes that this body of work is a study of creation and destruction from a historical, personal and scientific perspective. Though her subject remains similar in each of her prints, the inks and variegated paper create subtle yet important differences in each piece.
Michael Costello’s playful paintings lighten up the mix. In his self-portrait, a red-nosed, jolly Costello raises a glass of red wine while wearing a crown of grapes and leaves. His still lifes have the standard bowl or vase of flowers, but in some, there’s a twist. Sitting on the table in front of the flowers are little swirls of meringue. Sweet.
In addition to paintings and photographs, Maasch is branching out with small, figurative sculpture such as Ray Carbone’s “Egret.”
Visitors to the Clark House should set aside about an hour to take it all in. Although the gallery is not very big, this show has it all: quantity and quality. Plus, there’s a whole room full of photos, some old, some new, including a stunning set of abstract sea-glass pictures by Gaylen Morgan that sparkle like gems. Though it’s been a while since the gallery has been open to the public, this show is well worth the wait.
Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and by private appointment on Monday and Tuesday. For more information, call 942-2866