Reviews ...

Arts Festival delights just like spring

... variety of style and media lend magic to this show

by Jackie Wattenberg

It was a bright and happy Melrose Spring Arts Festival last weekend, with lots of colorful depictions of serene landscapes, New England churches, seashores, and creative and tricky photography. Even the streets of Melrose were glorified by two superb watercolorists, Don Fox and Tom Sutherland.

At the Festival, held at Memorial Hall, the building was jammed full of art, with throngs of visitors looking and sometimes buying, and piano music on the grand stage.

There weren’t any striking works of realism as in past shows, but there also wasn’t one work to be frowned upon in the array of oils, acrylics, watercolors, photography, quilt and paper art, as all were expressions of individual creativity.

Historically, the exhibit traveled briefly. There were the bold, crusty-surfaced, simply formed abstract acrylics of Ellen Rolli, and — reminiscent of 1700s Dutch still-lifes — the stunning bowls of fruit and pots of beautifully burnished metal by Susan Manning O’Briant. Rolli has been experimenting in a new technique with a palette knife, and it’s absorbing to see how she progresses. One small abstraction was interesting; more impressive was a sketchy nude, removed from Rolli’s predominant blue-reds, the form naturally, vibrantly poised.

There were also The human form, most often children in familial activities, was realistically captured in the charming bas-reliefs of Carol Schena. She also showed a few cleverly wrought wire animals, including horse, monkey and deer. We missed this unusual art last year, when it was declined, which was difficult to understand. Also admirable was a “Woman in Red,” nicely relaxed, by Judy Greulich, who said she does a lot of portraits, but brought just this one along, with oils capturing the freshness of silk flowers and appetizing radishes.

Originality does count, as in the experimental photography of Jack Gannon, who challenges his computer to do more than give facts — it helps him create images of strange and fascinating depth, such as the beauty of grates, faces and cars in far foreign places such as China and Vietnam. Also creative is the camera of Wilda Gerideau Squires, whose elegant folding forms look like dreamy paintings, a good trick of originality. Another original is Christine E. Riccardi, whose complex print creations hold interest in their distinctive charm.

Always original and cleverly done are the “assemblages” of Clint Chadsey. His small, well-constructed cabinets hold forms of the famous and perplexed — yes, there is the large seated figure of Dick Cheney holding a smaller George Bush on his lap, dummy-like. But there are many more of a philosophical nature, all with finely detailed figures and objects, such as the forms neglecting the clocks of time. A brilliant, provocative variety.

There’s a wonderfully calm and expansive view of nature in the oils of Karen Balthazard, and a winning, exquisite delicacy in watercolors of Barbara Kremer, in her scenes over water with lovely peach-toned skies. There’s also a distinctive delicacy in watercolors by Audrey DiPillo, who layers her tones of blues affectingly. Rod Peterson showed handsome watercolors that included a finely, loose-styled, handsome Trinity Church in Boston and an imposing craggy shore.

The great jumble of action in Jeannette Corbett’s painting in Europe was striking, and the horses a nice touch. The cluster of fruit and glass subjects by Claudine Lesk were bright, beautiful and assured. Luke Volpe showed a variety of familiar, expertly done scenes near or in our hometown. His view of “Train Bridge” was one of the most interesting views in the show. Cheryl Foley’s landscapes cut compelling curving pathways through her country scenes, and Deb Corbett is always accomplished in her city and country scenes.

It was fun to see Phyllis Kaplan’s really big, in-your-face, sharp watercolor of a train, entitled “Not in Service,” which was amusing and easy in style, and Kenneth Kellar’s soft, sensitive paintings of Boston and the far California coast, one scene with a memorable orange sky.

As visitors entered Memorial Hall, exhibit Number 1 was the creative photography of Tom Savage, who searches for unusual sites — an engrossing long view in the Boston Public Library, a contrasting blueberry field in Maine (is any food here more beloved than Maine blueberries?), and, most stunning, an awesome, mood-creating hollow tunnel in North Market.

If you like sandy dunes, you’d find them expertly, easefully captured by Pam Turnbull. Charles Tersolo can place a red building impressively in his cityscapes, with sometimes a striking smudgy effect. And then there are Nancy Freeman’s fine oils, photographer Thom Ciulla’s imperious cat and handsome, sometimes misty scenes of Paris, and of heavenly wisteria, soon to rise from our hard winter. Also the mood-creating subjects of photographer Anne Diamond McNevin, and Brian Macdonald’s remarkable, attractive paintings on glass.

If you missed this grand festival of art, you’ll find some artists showing in the Melrose Public Library and Melrose’s Beebe Estate Gallery, and Don Fox’s marvelous scenes along the shore are on display in his Melrose Drug Center.

Art is a personal thing, like music, each to his or her own inclination. Every artist showing in Memorial Hall during the Spring Arts Festival deserved to be there, admired by the many visitors. Now let’s plan a grand summer open-air art show along Main Street!

Editor’s note: For more information on any of the artists who exhibited at the Spring Arts Festival, visit the Melrose Arts and Cultural Association’s Web site at melrosearts.com.

Jackie Wattenberg is a Melrose resident and is the arts correspondent for the Free Press. She is also a long-time member of the SilverStringers.

May 1, 2009


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