Reviews ...

Many true talents at Melrose Arts Festival

... crowds, music and an endless display of fine art

by Jackie Wattenberg

The big art show held in Memorial Hall on Saturday and Sunday, April 8th and 9th, was a reminder of how popular and exciting this once-annual exhibit used to be and should continue. It seemed to me that the quality of the art was finer than the last show six years ago, lots of sales, too.

Crowds surged through the lanes of exhibitors, went upstairs for snacks and musical interludes, or circled around the stage where pianists, pop and classical, held forth.

Dixie Clark of Melrose.

Art is something personal. My favorites are personal--once having viewed a show of Jackson Pollack, five rooms of his dribble art, I assert that painting and sculpture must show some basic skill in form, technique, color. Abstractions can boast these skills, too, but the art world has perhaps reached its zenith, arriving at non-objectivity with merit, then fallen into acceptance of novelty -- a huge square of total black with just one green dot at "the exact point to make it's comment." "Works of art" that consist of "found objects" from garbage cans, even a row of small dead animals in formaldehyde. Would they stand up as art next to a Rembrandt?

Nothing of the sort here, novelty was not present at the Arts Festival. None of the art was experimental or daring, so the show had the overall quality of traditional landscapes and--this is New England -- waterscapes, plus flowers, vases and gardens of summer blooms.

Some of the traditional stood out for sheer beauty and remarkable execution such as Alice Graham's marvelously lustrous rainy day scene -- city buildings exact and clear, street shimmering so you could feel the rain, several umbrella-ed figures trailing skinny shadows, the buildings with overlapping shadows. This is a challenge met with sensitivity and skill. Her one pastel sketch of her son and a bright little painting of musical figures showed her ability with human figures too. Surprisingly, not many portraits or figures in the whole show.

Watercolorist Don Fox (in black artshow shirt), his wife Jane and a pair of enthusiastic fans.

Another standout was the remarkable fluid, lively watercolor style of Don Fox, especially his smashing depiction of San Marco Cathedral in Venice that any museum should appreciate. The work was done with superb lightness, easy washes of dark and deft dashes of brightness. All of his work boasted the same live spontaneity, a style of his own that makes his work distinctive. (He has another life as owner of Melrose Drug Center.)

Matthew Mantelli was notable for his diversity: realism of his brightly colored, vividly detailed houses in Amsterdam; an understated, originally conceived gray cityscape of a park with delicately defined trees and row of bullrushes, then another mood in a striking large surreal work of a fork in a gold-toned pear against a high, stark gray and black background, remindful of early 20th century artist DeChirico. A small card of a nude indicated a talent in figure painting too.

Three small but delightful paintings by Eva Cincotta of Melrose.

One rare artist who displayed nudes was young Julie Kramer. A mood-enhancing view showed a woman seated on a bed, bare back to us in an easeful position, naturally toned, lovely to behold. Both form and lighting were beautifully realized. A self-portrait with birds also showed her flair for faces and mood.

The three-D art of Clint Chadsky (at left).

The collages and box assemblages of Clint Chadsky intrigued our interest--not only cunningly planned as in Bush and Cheney boxed in with a missile--but skillfully cut and carved, definitely original. Also unique were the bas reliefs of Carol Schena, figures of fine depiction in varied poses, one charming with children followed by a trail of ducks.

Christine Riccardi offered fine watercolors of Maine, one with a gloriously yellow sky, another with winning delicacy. Still another accomplished watercolor artist was Tom Sutherland who finds Melrose fascinating in all seasons and times. His free and easy style enhances the attractions of our city, richly caught at twilight. Striking and unique were the clean, uncluttered hills and fields of Cheryl Foley, all curving around promising pathways.

Artist Ellen Rolli at the left, and artist/teacher Christine Riccardi, with friends, at the right.

Debra Corbett has brought into her firmly expressed oils a lovely play of light and brightness in city scenes, as well as in a handsome Walden Pond. There is an attractive airiness about Rod Peterson's watercolors, one pink cityscape in particular a stunner. "Overpass 93" became a thing of beauty in Jeff Hayes' hands, and he made "Medford Square" a place of mysterious beauty.

A small, subtle and entrancing little print by Judythe Evans Meagher of the tip of a gray boat in the gray mist of morning creates a strange, still mood of isolation. Luke Volpe presented a sharp story picture of a man seated in San Francisco, and in city and autumn scenes, demonstrated his powers of chiaroscuro. Carleen Muntz's oils of children have a nice freshness, and the older couple seated on a park bench were caught in wonderfully relaxed positions.

Joe and Fran Nola, owners of the Reading Artist Shop, with friends.

There is a nice romantic realism in Fran Nola's scenes of nature, especially lambs in the blue grass of Vermont. The dense melding of leaves and stems in rust orange by Diane Sawyer McLaughlin held a certain fascination. Jeannine Pastore worked charcoal into her acrylics to add strength and contrast to a bouquet of yellow flowers. Anthony Accettullo's watercolors included an inviting view of pink sand and a grand sweep of hill up to a lighthouse. Watercolorist Dixie Clark captured the charm and elegance of Italian streets. I missed Ellen Rolli's striking street scenes, but she had an array of very small acrylic still-life pieces.

And some fine photography. Unusual and intriguing were the abstract forms in smooth surface sheen by Wilda Gerideau-Squires, actually created, cleverly, from arrangements of swirling, curling cloth. Dean Tyler seeks the drama of expressive lighting with sunsets in California and a dramatic view of a shore lighthouse. Tiffany Shepard captures the variety in both cityscapes and nature everywhere.

This art exhibit was an adventure. We hope for another next year.

Photos by SilverStringer Photo Team.

More photos from the Melrose Arts Festival, 2006:

The selection seemed endless ...

"Hey, I found this beautiful painting ..." and Making a selection.

Diane Sawler McLaughlin (in blue jacket) chats with Lois McMullin -- both are retired from the Melrose Public Library staff, Diane as research librarian and Lois as assistant to the director. Diane's restful cloudscape is at the left. She was one of the founders in 1980 of The Atelier, a group of serious artists in this area.

It was a time for friends to meet, have a glass of wine and enjoy an evening of art.

Tom Sutherland displayed his handsome watercolors of Melrose.

May 5, 2006

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