If you’re tired of grey skies and slush, you might want to visit Les Yeux du Monde before the end of March. “When you walk in the gallery, you see a lot of color,” said Lyn Bolen Warren, the curator of the space’s current exhibit, Visions of Spring. “You see these big painted urns reaching upward, a collage of a tree that is almost life-size. Some pieces are smaller, quieter and more meditative, but the colors are very optimistic. They all have that same hopeful feel.”
Visions of Spring, a six-artist show that runs through March 30, portrays landscapes and life sources, lakes and fields and flowers and fruits that recall natural renewal and preservation. “Some artists are very specific,” Warren said. “They grew up on farms and are watching the world turn into parking lots, so this is how they try to preserve what they remember.”
While each artist brings distinct intentions and styles to the show, Warren, who has her Ph.D. in art history, selected both gallery newcomers and regulars for their awareness of art in its historical context. “Priscilla’s paintings are like Monet’s,” she said. “Ann Lyne has her own really expressionistic stylist way of painting, with lots of gesture and movement, that references the greats from Degas to Matisse, Picasso and Diebenkorn. Lou Jordan’s latest paintings are reminiscent of Milton Avery in their color and subject matter. John McCarthy, who died in 2008, wrote about studying Matisse and his colors. He was interested in doing the things the early modern masters did, and he did a great job learning their lessons.”
Unlike the work by the masters, however, many pieces in Visions “can be purchased for less than the cost of having a poster framed,” Warren said. And they preserve the energy of blue skies and warm breezes, the resonant gratitude of artists who dwell in a confluence of memory and present moment.
Contributing artist Elizabeth Bradford called her work a meditation, “the meeting of a real place, my spiritual reaction to it, and the visual vocabulary I use for expressing that reaction. Sometimes that meditation is about stillness, and sometimes it is about overwhelming activity, both of which exist side by side in the natural world.”
“Spring by the Lake was literally painted when the very first natural wildflowers peeked up through the ground,” said contributor Priscilla Whitlock. “Imagine standing in the middle of a field with clovers, blue-eyed grasses, buttercups, ferns, and colored weeds intermingling at your feet. The brush work echoes the rhythm of the growth on the ground.”
Lou Jordan uses oil paints to likewise savor and spend time with his subjects. “When I spent time in Rome recently, I looked out our window and saw herb beds and an orchard,” he said. “Lemon trees were wrapped in white to protect them from cool weather as the lemons ripened. The beds were turned over for new plants, and early lettuce and herbs were visible in some. I painted this many times, and I walked through it and remembered it.”
“I grew up on a farm in Kentucky with a naturalist painter grandmother who took her grandchildren on long nature walks,” said Cary Brown, a contributor whose paintings pay homage to springtime birds in danger of extinction. “For instance, the Whippoorwill has almost completely disappeared because of compromised farmland and pesticides,” she said. “This was a bird many of us knew in our childhoods, a sound we went to sleep hearing.”
John McCarthy’s wife, Judy, sees gratitude in her late husband’s work, a translation of the joy we all feel when springtime finally arrives. “Winters were so cold and confining to him,” she wrote, “and this was the time of year he would venture out and take photos of new buds in the fading light. The colors were so glorious after the dark days of winter. He would have epiphany moments that were then transformed into works of art, and we would both see the world with new eyes.”
Les Yeux du Monde will host an artists’ luncheon on Wednesday, March 26.