I observed March as Women’s History Month by seeing the work of four artists.
Maggie Neale showed her work at the Vermont Supreme Court in Montpelier. Having seen Neale’s handpainted silk scarves, I was interested to see what she would do with the large walls and challenging space at the Supreme Court. Some of Neale’s works in this show were big–perhaps three feet wide by seven feet tall. What drew my eye were the rich colors. They flowed across the fabric creating forms and depths. One of the large works was called Resurrection. Beautiful greens and deep blacks formed the background out of which emerged a suggestion of an empty cross in yellows and yellow oranges. This work conveyed a powerful sense of life at one with and yet triumphant over the dark.
The second show I visited was in St. Johnsbury, at Catamount Arts. A show of Elizabeth Nelson’s recent work is there through this Sunday, March 31. Nelson’s focus is on Nature; color and drawing are equally emphasized in her work. Her large canvases are divided into multiple squares. She builds landscapes out of this grid, each square an experience of color in itself, yet contributing to the whole. Elizabeth Nelson has a particularly honed eye for winter subjects, but she also includes an intensely colored and almost abstract painting of fall and paintings of reeds, which walk a fine line between nature and abstraction.
Further afield in the listening area, Canadian artist Susan G. Scott showed paintings of sleeping children at Galerie de Bellefeuille in Montreal. Some paintings are small portraits of heads resting on pillows, while others approach life size; single figures and their bedclothes painted in warm, sensuous, subtly related colors. Scott’s large paintings evoke both reverence for childhood and the unease of watching up close as someone sleeps – a tension between innocent fragility, voyeurism, and the erotic that give Scott’s quiet subjects unexpected power.
The fourth painter, Marjorie Kramer, is showing her work at Johnson State College, through April 13. Kramer has hung a spare and focused show where the arrangement of each wall brings clear attention to the work, work that is confident and deeply felt. Kramer’s landscapes convey the somber depths of the deep woods. Her self portraits and figure drawings affirm the great appeal and ongoing emotional vitality of the human subject. Kramer’s every mark contains spirited energy – whether brushstrokes over the subject’s hair, charcoal lines delineating a table or a body, or touches of bright color bringing to life the woodland floor.
Seeing these shows was a great way to celebrate the contributions of women to the life of our area. The works of Maggie Neale, Elizabeth Nelson, Susan G. Scott, and Marjorie Kramer fed my March hunger for color and my love of nature, human life, and art.
This is Lois Eby.
–Lois Eby is a painter who comments on the arts, women’s issues, and civil rights.