Exhibit at Northampton’s Oxbow Gallery features works by seven landscape artists

Last modified: Thursday, August 22, 2013
As its name suggests, “Seven on Site,” the exhibit at the Oxbow Gallery in Northampton through June 30, shows the works of seven artists, all who painted outside within view of the scenes captured on canvas. The pieces encompass a wide range of territory, both in terms of the terrain they cover and their compositional attributes.

The exhibit features works depicting vistas in this country and Europe by artists from across the United States, including Hatfield artist Martha Armstrong, whose artwork has been in numerous shows at the Oxbow. Other artists whose paintings are on view are: Lynette Lombard, Sasha Chermayeff, Ro Lohin, Judy Koon, Jane Culp and Megan Williamson.

While all the pieces fall under the heading of figurative art, some are largely abstract, using landscape as a jumping-off point for the exploration of color, line and form. Others make more faithful representations of the scenes they depict. What ties them together is the immediacy that comes from their on-site creation. The pieces share the sensation of what it was like for the respective artists to be there, looking on that day, at that time, in that weather.

In “First Shadows of Morning,” Armstrong depicts a grassy hillside dotted with trees, overlooking a distant, partially wooded slope. She paints the scene using loose, broad brush strokes of bright yellows, revealing slopes ablaze with the rays of the early morning sun. Patches of green, muted here, dark there, suggest the slanted shadows of the trees, where dew-covered grass still casts a chill.

Armstrong evokes the effervescent briskness of sunrise and, at the same time, uses the landscape to explore the dynamics of color, space and line. The orange-pink foliage of a tree in the foreground is set off against the dark greens of the background, creating the illusion of depth in the canvas’s patchwork of hues.

Lombard’s “Lake Chautauqua” employs thick strokes of paint to capture the lushness of a windblown tree, its foliage like a mass of luxurious green hair. Dramatic clouds, tinged by the colors of a setting sun, scud across a bright blue sky. The heavily applied paint gives the scene an extravagant sensuality that hints at a crisp breeze and dramatic temperature changes caused by the passing clouds.

In her work, Williamson explores a landscape where nature and man intersect. In “Strange Brew,” she juxtaposes buildings and railroad cars, the geometric shapes of the urban landscape, against the less-defined forms of the tree foliage in the foreground. Williamson paints the industrial structures in solid colors, with red, blue, beige and lime-green rectangles pieced together like a patchwork quilt. The effect is to flatten the space, pushing the man-made shapes uncomfortably close to the freer natural forms, forcing them into an uneasy partnership. She enhances that feeling by sandwiching the objects between a wedge of blue sky at the top of the canvas and the strip of water at the bottom.

Koon’s landscapes, the most realistically rendered in the exhibit, are both subtle and dramatic. Recalling 17th-century Dutch landscape paintings, Koon’s “The Hudson from Olana” depicts a river passing through distant rolling hills. Two-thirds sky, the scene is cloaked in a thick haze that makes the countryside look somber, still and remote. Even so, there is an energy here, suggested in the lively brushstrokes and range of blues Koon has painted the expansive sky. In Koon’s painting, nature dwarfs man, here represented in indistinct structures — a steeple? — nestled among the hills.

All of the works clearly convey these artists’ responses to what they see — and feel — as they translate a scene into an image on canvas; they help us to look through their eyes, taking us away, if briefly, for a breath of fresh air.

The gallery is located at 275 Pleasant St. in Northampton. Hours are Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For information, call 586-6300 or visit www.oxbowgallery.org.