Deviating from the norm, this week’s look at the arts will not be a long deepening around a singular exhibition. Instead, it’ll be something of a short trilogy, looking at just a few works of art in three different locations that are the highlights of their respective shows. But enough exposure…
‘William Shattuck: Reveries’, currently on display in the Big Braitmayer Gallery at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, is an engaging and lush exhibit that highlights some truly extraordinary paintings by one of the region’s art community’s oldest statesmen. .
Shattuck is by no means an plein air painter, but he does spend a lot of time wandering the fields, woods and swamps of southeastern Massachusetts, given the connection between land, water and the sky.
He does not paint in nature as a traditional plein air artist would, but rather seems to absorb the essence of nature and reinvent it in a new way, which marries the muscle memory of an experienced painter with a certain sense of supernatural of something that does not exist. t quite exist in this reality.
“Rêveries” is a perfect name for the exhibition, as Shattuck’s landscapes resonate with a vibrant transcendence of reverie. His “Pilgrim’s Progress”, a reference to John Bunyan’s 1678 Christian allegory “The Pilgrim’s Progress From This World To That Which Is To Come”, could very well be a cover illustration for the famous book.
The protagonist, Christian, seeks the Bright Light of Heaven. Shattuck’s painting manifests this celestial glow as if it were a fact itself, if one stays on the path.
With his “Flood”, Shattuck depicts the trees, reeds and rocky outcroppings of an island, with ethereal luminescence above, all perfectly reflected in the water below, as still as a mirror. As in all the paintings in the exhibition, the magic seems just below the surface and if a mythological sea god or a Tolkienesque dragon were to emerge from the still water, they would fit right into this world.
Meanwhile, across town in the South End’s Kilburn Mill, gallery owner Judith Klein is exhibiting her own work, much of which has just been minted. To some extent, the exhibition is a bit of a placeholder ahead of a “holiday exhibition,” which will open in early December and feature work from Klein’s malleable stable of artists, including Phyllis Dobbyn Adams, Ron Lister, Anthony Miraglia, Kathy Miraglia, Adrian Tio and a few others.
As for the new work Klein is presenting now, it speaks to a sense of hope in response to a few years of global fatigue fueled by the pandemic, war, gun violence, political insurgency and social unrest.
She responds to all this with two paintings with glued elements. “Focal Point” features a hand touching a glowing orange orb that’s as promising as a sunrise while in “Bluebird,” the feathered singer gazes into the distance as if searching for answers.
By the time this writing sees publication, the trick-or-treating and costume parties will be over and the Halloween-themed exhibits that have become staples at many galleries will have closed.
“Nightmares and Dreamscapes” at Galerie X is no exception. Predictably, monsters, skeletons, fantastical creatures, and demons featured heavily, but in a number of cases it was the more grounded work in reality that shook.
Eileen Riley exhibited an assemblage that featured a blue-skinned Barbie, naked except for gold armor, with the head of a bat. But this Batgirl is not the protector of Gotham City. It’s implied that she may not be ready for this kind of superhero with the title: “Major Manic Episode”, as it recognizes that what goes on in the mind can be more disturbing than what which is not happening.
“Intrusive Thoughts” by J. Brian Clarkmore features a naked man curled up in a corner, his head buried between his knees, as if trying to escape the darkness that invades him.
Zachary White’s “Tetanus” is a jumble of rusty nails, screws, staples and bits of wire encased in a transparent block. It is an asp of agony.
“William Shattuck: Reveries” is on display at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, 16 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford until December 30.
“The Art of Judith Klein” is on display at the Judith Klein Art Gallery, Kilburn Mill, Suite 287, 127 West Rodney French Blvd., New Bedford until early December.
Gallery X is located at 169 William Street, New Bedford. The current exhibition, “Recycled Art”, will be on view until November 27.