‘Bright & Light’: Downtown Amherst exhibits fight winter with lots of color

  • “Mountain Laurel at Julian’s Bower,” oil on canvas by Tom Morton. Image courtesy of Keith Hollingworth

  • “Orange Bicycle” by Eric Broudy. Image courtesy of Keith Hollingworth

  • “Les Fleurs du Mal,” mixed media by Sue Katz. Image courtesy of Keith Hollingworth

  • “Winter Dew,” acrylic on canvas by Elaina Kennedy. Image courtesy of Keith Hollingworth.

  • “On Time,” acrylic on canvas by Robert Bent. Image courtesy of Keith Hollingworth

  • “Crowd,” oil on canvas by Laure Denne. Image courtesy of Laure Dennery

  • “Fusion,” oil on canvas by Laure Dennery. Image courtesy of Laure Dennery

  • “Antarctic Lava,” oil on canvas by Laure Dennery. Image courtesy of Laure Dennery

  • “Fusion,” oil on canvas by Laure Dennery. Image courtesy of Laure Dennery

Staff Writer
Thursday, January 18, 2018

Winter in all of its (non) glory brings its usual tidings: cold, slush and snow and ice, burst pipes, short days and long nights.

But in downtown Amherst, artists are fighting back with some exhibits that aim to bring some warmth and color to winter’s gray palette.

Gallery A3, the longstanding artists’ cooperative, this month is featuring “Bright and Light,” a group show that includes painting, photography, mixed media and other work, from over a dozen artists, that’s generally built around warm-weather themes.

And in Town Hall, painter Laure Dennery has fashioned an interesting look at a popular bird whose colors are a rebuke of sorts to winter (even if it mostly lives in cold-weather climes).

Bright and Light

The Galley A3 show gets off to a colorful start with an oil painting near the entrance by Tom Morton, “Mountain Laurel at Julian’s Bower.” It’s a two-panel work in which the canvases are closely related — particularly in their vivid, almost dreamlike colors — but don’t quite match up thematically or visually.

Morton, who has explored a variety of mediums over the years — video installation, sculpture, collages — here creates a semi-abstract landscape that’s layered in rich tones of blue, yellow, gold, and orange. Especially in the righthand part of his painting, this creates a rainbow effect.

Both panels present a garden-like image of flowers, grass and background trees, and they’re linked by a tree at the border of the two frames whose branches and buds extend to either side. But the two panels are notably different, particularly in the way the one on the left seems lit by a hazy, distant light.

Photographer Eric Broudy contributes two summer-themed images: the beach during the day and at dusk. In “Orange Bicycle,” a young woman on the sand does an impossible-looking yoga move, standing on one leg as she pulls the other nearly above her head to grasp her foot with both hands. A brightly-colored bicycle stands nearby; there’s a calm, flat sea in the background, and the whole scene is suffused with sunlight.

“Mauve Evening,” by contrast, shows a darkening beach with a woman in a wetsuit walking near the edge of the water; the murky sun is fading behind oncoming clouds.

It might not necessarily be summer-themed, but Sue Katz’s mixed-media piece “Les Fleurs du Mal” (“Flowers of Evil”) certainly catches the eye. Two sets of old bedsprings — “flowers” — extend from a wood block, which stands in for a vase. Nesting in one set of springs is a can of insecticide labeled “DDT,” while three lines of stenciled letters spelling out “Deplorable Donald Trump” extend past the second bedspring.

The piece’s title comes from a volume of poetry by Charles Baudelaire.

The exhibit also includes a number of abstract/expressionist paintings such as “On Time” by Robert Bent, an acrylic on canvas work that includes a wide variety of circles interspersed with looping single lines, all of the shapes butting up against each other in random patterns as though they’ve been shaken together and are still settling.

And in a four-panel mixed media piece, Rochelle Shicoff combines wood blocks, paint, paper, and wooden letters to create a mysterious mix of imagery, from birds and shrubbery to partially drawn, haunted faces.

Penguin portraits

Laure Dennery’s show at Amherst Town Hall, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” is certainly an appropriate one for the dead of winter. It’s a humorous and imaginative crop of penguin paintings — or more accurately, a collection of largely abstract work inspired by the distinctive colors and shapes of the waddling, flightless birds.

Dennery, of South Hadley, says she became interested in painting penguins after seeing the 2005 documentary “March of the Penguins,” and she has returned to them as a source for new work pretty steadily over the years.

“It’s something I keep coming back to,” she said. “The first paintings I made were pretty representative, but as I kept going I found myself becoming more and more abstract.”

Dennery adds that she finds penguins “a great way to experiment with color and tone and composition,” both in painting and in other mediums such as collage and drawing.

In her Town Hall show, which runs through Feb. 24, Dennery largely eschews straightforward portraits of the birds, though a notable exception is “One Cold Morning,” in which a cluster of penguins stand at the edge of a very frigid-looking body of water, with icy mountains in the background.

More common are oil paintings like “Fusion,” in which the artist creates an abstract image of black, white and small streaks of orange. Knowing the show is penguin-based, a viewer can detect two penguin heads leaning against one another, but in atrompe l’oeileffect,you can just as easily see a curving tableau of black and white with touches of orange.

“Eye to Eye” and “Vice Versa” offer a variation on that theme, with different colors, while “Crowd” conjures a cluster of penguins huddling against intense cold and wind, the tops of their heads and part of their bodies visible but their faces and bills hidden from view. What can be seen is a melange of black, white and bluish-gray that makes both for a pleasing mix of color as well as an amusing image.

In her exhibit, Dennery, who began studying painting seriously at Skidmore College in New York state, includes some works that go even further in recasting the colors and shape of penguins into highly abstract views, such as the four-panel painting “All Together” and the three-panel “Antarctic Lava”; the latter does indeed seem to flow with a mix of blue, orange, yellow, black and other colors.

Animals in general appeal to Dennery, who has a separate show of stylized paintings of bears, tigers and other critters opening in February at Jones Library. “I like the way they’re simply themselves,” she said. “Animals are truly who they are — they’re not hiding or posing.”

Though in the case of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Dennery finds a way to cast one animal species in a different light.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

More information on Galley A3 can be found at gallerya3.com. There will be an artist’s reception for Laure Dennery’s Town Hall exhibit on Feb. 1 from 5-8 p.m. Her website is dennerydesignart.squarespace.com.