Complementary Colors: Engaging Art

My first glimpse of the new art show, “Complementary Colors,” in Scarritt Bennett’s Laskey gallery was of a quartet of paintings of a dog against the backdrop of the seasons. The painting, “Jasper on the Farm” by Pam Sevy, is done with considerable sharp detail, an almost photorealistic take on a subject much more warm and inviting than the somewhat cold types of images the photorealists tended to choose.  Many of the pieces in this show play with contrasts of subject and style to invite us into a deeper way of seeing what we think we know.

These 25 paintings by five artists show an appreciation for natural beauty, for the delight of form and color and line. We see the places the artists love, from the Tetons to an Italian village, and we see the natural world lit up with the artists’ appreciation for how much there is to celebrate in a plump gourd or a magnificent magnolia, or a herd of cows, meditating in the mist.

A few of the pieces seem to evoke a childhood memory, like Ty Finch’s “Illinois Gold,” where rows of tasseled corn in high summer turn into waves on a gold ocean. Anita Schmid’s “Open Water Dive!”  gives us a scuba diver caught in a moment of astonishment that seems to reflect playfully on a personal experience, real or imagined.

Some of the pieces focus closely on one object. “Stately White” and others by Sandra Vanderpool are formal studies of flowering plants, up-close large canvases in rich colors that make a striking statement. They grab out attention and make us ask if we have ever truly considered the intricacy and lush beauty of a single flower.  Linda Bird’s “Gourd on Burgundy,” contrasts the humble gourd with a regal background that makes its subject seem more noble.

Other paintings are more about mood, emotional tones evoked by light and shadow. “Red Cows on Hackberry Hill,” by Pam Sevvy gathers a group of glowing cattle around a tree, in a misty, almost mystical scene. The cows seem to be connected in their stances toward the tree and one another that makes me think they are prayerful.

Spirituality also is suggested in “Pied Beauty,” by Anita Schimd. It simply focuses on the trunk of a tree, maybe a close-up of a sycamore in another work, and shows us the beauty in its texture. The artist has piled up the paint to create the rough texture of bark that makes you want to go find a tree to explore with your hands. The title of this piece, “Pied Beauty,” is a reference to the poem of the same name by Gerard Manley Hopkins that begins, “Glory be to God for dappled things. . .”

Hopkins’ poem, like this art show, is a celebration of the beauty found in everything God made, from cows to collies, from the intense beauty of a single flower to the wide expanse of mountain and valley. The artists have captured glimpses of the creative power that gave us the light our inspired arts catch and hold in their luminous gift.

Complementary Colors is on display through September 26th on the second floor of the Laskey building. Selected pieces are available for sale. The artists are all members of the painting class taught by Charles Brindley. For information about art classes, click here.

mtidwell photoMelissa Tidwell has written about spirituality, music, metaphor, and zombies. She is the former editor of Alive Now magazine, and the author of Embodied Light: Advent Reflections on Incarnation. She contributed to the Companions in Christ small group formation series and has also written for Weavings magazine. In 2013, Melissa returned to seminary to finish a degree begun 20 years before, and is now seeking a pastoral call in the Presbyterian Church. She is a resident campus assistant at Scarritt Bennett Center where she contributes to chapel services.