Editor’s Note: Our fine arts writer was out and about on Friday night during 3rd in the Burg. Here’s what he found.
Part I: “Scottish Landscapes” at St. Stephen’s Riverfront Gallery
Back in late summer of 2018, congregant and art enthusiast Lindsay Gottwald and a faithful few hatched the idea of a full-scale art gallery at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral. In its brief existence, the Riverfront Gallery already has made quite a name for itself in the local art community.
In September, it brought “Icons in Transformation,” contemporary religious iconography, to its cathedral walls for a three-month run as part of its national tour across the United States then back to Europe. Art, viewed out of its normal setting of a gallery or museum, becomes a brand-new experience within the cathedral’s cloister.
Following a world-class exhibit like “Icons” could prove to be a daunting task for a gallery and an artist to follow. St. Stephen’s deemed it fitting for an exhibit featuring the work of Carrie Wissler-Thomas, CEO of the Art Association of Harrisburg, who is showing her collection of oils of sacred sites from Scotland.
Wissler-Thomas’s paintings showcase the Holy Isle of Islay and other historical landmarks dating back to Neolithic days. In all, a score of sumptuous oils painted over the course of a decade from annual trips to Scotland capture an eternal beauty of well-known locales forming the Scottish countryside. Scotland’s nooks and crannies come alive in Wissler-Thomas’s power of place studies highlighting lochs, burns and tors. With a fluid continuity, they provide the perfect backdrop for textured tableaux of treasures unchanged by time.
In her palette, Wissler-Thomas took full advantage of the color-rich vegetation of Scotland, from the lavender-colored heather to the vibrantly irrepressible shades of gorse growing with wild abandon. Umber shades burst forth from the golden collars of the sheep, their wool mixed with specks of black-like peat in “Kildalton Cross Sheep, Islay.” Languid landscapes linger in the minds eye while the aires of ancient times lend accompaniment to a soundtrack playing in the artist’s head.
Scotland, for Wissler-Thomas, is akin to being transported to her own isle of enchantment, rich in history and meaning. She pays homage to Druidic days with her painting of sacred stones in “Callanish II, Isle of Lewes.” The upright tablets are captured right before dawn or at dusk as the sky turns ambiguous shades of marled oatmeal like flecks of tweed. Firing the imagination is a sea-swept scene in “Loch Fynne, Lowering Sky.” In tramping among the becks and rills over craggy terrain to find the perfect pitch to set her canvas aright (metaphorically speaking), Wissler-Thomas makes her annual pilgrimage worthy for those who follow.
Wissler-Thomas paints with eyes wide open, seeing shades and sunsets, catching the sky as it changes quickly and quietly. Her canvases speak to a love that grows deeper with each year and visit—of Scotland wild and woolly and the siren call the wee shores make, beckoning her to paint those halcyon days of yore. The bucolic rural life lends itself to vagabonds and dreamers, to poets and painters. In the end, the sacred and the secular blend in their own perfect symmetry, creating a harmony found somewhere between the unfettered fields of heather and heaven.
“Scottish Landscapes” runs through Feb. 28 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral’s Riverfront Gallery, 221 N. Front St., Harrisburg.
Part II: “Shift” at Susquehanna Art Museum
Usually when you hear the phrase, “There is a glitch occurring,” it’s a bad thing. In art, that may not the case. In fact, just the opposite might be true.
At the Susquehanna Art Museum, two artists, painters both, employ and amplify technology, twisting it just so to meet their needs. A show entitled “Shift,” in the Lobby Gallery, offers distortion and drama in just the right amount. The end results are highly stylized, individualistic paintings that use technology as the backdrop to a new manner of looking at things familiar, yet different.
Tiffany Calvert’s oil paintings, layered atop digitally formatted glitch aesthetic Dutch floral still lifes, spring alive on their black backgrounds. The thickly applied textural touches of taupes and mauves, added to the flowers natural hues, pop off the canvas, creating a genre entirely its own. Alex Kanevsky’s oil-on-panel paintings distort time and its impermanence. The double-edged sword of memory and its unreliable nature, paired with how man views his meaning in a world where nothing remains constant, is a narrative purely his own.
Both artists are modern-day myth manipulators, mining the age-old dictum that art exists only within a certain framework. How does one improve upon art from centuries ago? The end result prods and provokes, which forms the foundation for a new reading. Those notions of the past, in laying a fresh perspective, are now determined detrimental in developing a solid template tempered through technology. This becomes the paradigm itself. “Shift” may change your way of thinking about art and certainly the way you look at it. Isn’t that what great art is meant to do after all?
“Shift” runs through Feb. 16 at the Susquehanna Art Museum, 1401 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.susquehannaartmuseum.org.