Reviews ...

Variety galore at Melrose Arts Festival

... Melrose gains on reputation as a significant art center, thanks to Melrose Arts and Cultural Association (MACA)

by Jackie Wattenberg

This article appeared originally in the Melrose Free Press, April 22, 2010, and is used here by permission.

A new realization arose during our big annual Arts Festival in Memorial Hall last weekend: If the arts are your thing, you’re lucky to live in Melrose where the arts are glorified.

First, there was this annual art show set up by Melrose Arts and Cultural Association artists, and even non-artists who helped only because they love art. Then on Sunday at 3 p.m., there was the free monthly recital by the Melrose Beethoven Society. Nearby towns also have no choral society like our Polymnia, and how many towns, even cities, possess a symphony orchestra like our Melrose Symphony Orchestra, distinguished under the magic of conductor Yoichi Udagawa?

Also, the Beebe Estate has been boasting monthly art exhibits, including this month’s exhibit by Charles Tersolo, a master of an expressionist pointillist approach to Boston trees. And once a month, Out Loud at the Beebe is held, a place for folk musicians, poets, and writers to gather. Finally, roam along Main Street and you’ll find a variety of original art in the Hourglass Art and Gift Gallery shop.

Melrose is indeed — “City of the Arts!”

But, back to the art show! The headline news in this year’s exhibit was the amazing shift of Tom Sutherland, known for years for his lovely, loose-styled watercolors — dramatized in his “Painting with Puccini” series — into oil paints! And superb oils! Yes, Sutherland of softly envisioned buildings in Boston, Venice and Paris, can catch the sinewy form of a woman in red dress — three times! But most impressive are his scenes of small spaces with dramatic chiaroscuro: a seated woman viewed from behind and above, in both light and shadow, beneath a great high arch. After his soft, loose watercolors, these works are solid and masterfully controlled in striking form. Somewhere, he deserves to have a broader showing. At least on our local MMTV cable channel, a sampling soon.

Artist Ellen Rolli(left) and art-show chairman Debra Corbett(right).
Photo by Don Norris
In a way, it’s a hard time for artists. The world of art has swept through flat drawings, to realism, development of chiaroscuro, photography, Impressionist softening, distortions and abstractions, minimalist, and “found objects” creations. Dribbles of Jackson Pollack; liquid vessels containing a dead mouse and dead squirrel; a tall post in the Boston Museum of Art with one big knot of rope with the rope hanging down — these attempts for something new in art, well, are they art? Each of us has our opinion.

I found it striking to note more exploration of abstraction and nonrepresentational art at the Melrose Arts Festival. Of course there was a major collection of city scenes, flowers, landscapes, and works with cloth and glass. But there were also forays into freer style, such as Chris Spuglio’s meandering black veins across lustrous colors to create distinctive and arresting impressions. Well-known Melrose artist Ellen Rolli has gone even further — no more big shoes or standing lipsticks, not one vibrant torso like last year, but newer, freer exploration of paint and space.

Some can recall when Rolli and her friend Debra Corbett painted houses together in representational manner — and here they were showing beside each other in abstract forms. Rolli’s acrylics flare into vivid colors with emotional impact, except for one large muted-tone, ochre-dull red work with rhythmic suggestions that at a distance was striking. And three smaller squares of black and white were serenely patterned.

Corbett’s large squares and rectangles were calmer and pale-toned with suggestions of cloth in their rows of patterned design. She layers her works, then carves into them, creating cloth or stone-like impressions. Certainly distinctive.

Moving back to realism, a new name this year with a handsome style is John Maciejowski, whose acrylic scenes hold a confident, individualistic approach. No fooling around with needless brush strokes, but instead offering a freshness to each outside scene or stunning seascape.

A young man named J.J. Long showed a variety of subjects, his works in muted tones the most interesting. How could a large painting of cars on a city street be lovely? His remarkable overall muted tones in all colors created a harmonious effect. Clever achievement, clever young artist.

Oil painter Eric Mauro burnished most of his well-designed efforts with reds, but showed probably the exhibit’s best portrait, “Lisa,” in shadowed tones — a beauty. He also showed a green and blue park scene of admirable simplicity. Don Fox, of the much-lamented, late Melrose Drug Center, was there with his never-missing watercolors, though with city sites more tightly controlled than the romantic Boston shore scenes we admired in his store, or his fascinating depictions of Italian and French cities.

Anne Diamond McNevin does tricky things with photography, including some striking door designs; one gorgeous dark scene with the certain look of a painting; and a clever small clock for peace. Lisa Tiemann showed striking glass designs: A pair of trees casting cleverly lined shadows was a beauty. As was Pam Perris’ striking, grey-toned, stern staircase and narrow view with hat. Philip Hartman showed a direct sense of design in landscape, as did Will Kirkpatrick’s perfect little still life of lobsters in ruddy darkness.

There was Robin Turnbull’s lonely guy sitting bare-armed on a long grey bench, an effective air of despondency projected; and another well-done human figure — a boy in red shorts leaning over to catch a crawling creature. Judy Greulich exhibited “Lady in Red,” and an unusual, compelling little still life with shadowed edges. Dennis McQuillen presented simply contrasted boats on water.

Clint Chadsey, of the perennial, fascinating wood boxes, is a philosopher, social commentator, and artist unique. He covered all grounds — baseball; love and how to secure it; children’s progress; and “Of our own making,” which leaves a top shelf empty! His creation of the Sarah Palin “Prompter” is her words printed on a hand: “Gods, guns, maverick, you betcha!” All thoughts and pictures were well boxed in.

The Melrose Arts Festival was big, colorful, and well attended. But why no music on stage this year?

Craft and jewelry pieces exhibited at the Arts Festival were not reviewed. Jackie Wattenberg is a Melrose resident and is the arts correspondent for the Free Press.

You can see pictures from the exhibition in this month's article, "Sampling the work at MACA's art show".

May 7, 2010

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