Last exhibit at Cynthia Reeves Gallery showcases bird paintings, sculpture
By Kunyi Li
Published on Friday, August 17, 2012
Nested on limestone and summoned onto canvas by pigments of coffee and beeswax, flocks of solemn birds in various artistic media will be the last guests in the Cynthia Reeves Gallery before it relocates to Walpole, N.H., later this fall. Having served more than a decade as the hub for contemporary art in the Upper Valley community, the Cynthia Reeves Gallery in downtown Hanover — formerly the Sepheris Gallery — will bid farewell to its patrons with the exhibition titled “Full Circle,” which opened on Saturday and features selections from the California sculpture artist Jane Rosen.
After showcasing the works of abstract artists this summer, including Allison Gildersleeve and Lianghong Feng, Rosen’s art represents a return to the figurative work more typical of the gallery.
At the beginning of her career almost four decades ago, Rosen sought to reconcile the tension between nature and culture, while preserving a sense of enigma, according to the exhibition’s catalog. While the abundance of life overwhelms many of us, Rosen stands as an acute observer whose art captures the wonders in nature and the movements beyond the natural world, the catalog said.
“Everything Rosen does is anthropomorphic — she uses nature, animals and culture and sometimes intermixes them to variously suggest lessons that humans need to learn from the animal and vegetable worlds,” Jan Garden Castro, a New York-based critic, said. “One of the reasons for making art is to express that for which there are no words ... it has to activate what can be felt.”
The centerpiece of the exhibition, “Mama Raven,” is a large etching brought out in layers of pigment, print and clay ground. The fierce animal in profile view occupying the entirety of the canvas appears to be suspended in an unknown space. Although appearing rough and blurred overall, the painting is brought into focus by a sharp curve that carves the wing of the bird. This contrast in clarity combines a solemn tranquility with motion, presenting a majestic beast that could stand as a rival to Edgar Allan Poe’s raven.
The other side of the gallery displays two selections from Rosen’s sculptural series “Skyscraper Bird.” From afar, the pair of birds in rough limestone elevated on rectangular pedestals seem to appear human in shape. The animals, with their wings retracted and humbly inclined forward, give off the air of robed prophets. Nonetheless, their seemingly daunting mystery fills the atmosphere with a soothing sense of peace.
“I think these two together are probably my favorite,” Emily Reeves, an associate at the gallery, said. “Just because like it looks like they are standing guard against the wall and not against anything. They look fierce, in a serene way. I really enjoy her work and seeing her here. It’s kind of an introduction to the new art world. It is interesting get to know a person from the artwork before knowing them first.”
The spiritual nature of Rosen’s work comes from a combination of influences from her own life and various artistic inspirations. Raised in New York City, she became captivated by nature on a trip to California and later relocated to San Gregorio, Calif., south of San Francisco. Throughout her career she has been fascinated by the cultures of Native Americans and Egyptians, whose interest in being and mortality has become a resounding theme in her work, according to the catalog.
“The fundamental thing that strikes me about this exposition is the serenity you feel about this space,” Azariah Aker, associate director of the gallery, said. “It’s the calming natural elements, you know the birds, the figures the way they are presented the natural material of the stone. I look forward to living with the work for the next few months.”
Rosen’s work has already been featured in “Conference of the Birds,” another Cynthia Reeves project that recently concluded in Jersey City, N.J. Nonetheless, loyal viewers who have already seen Rosen’s exhibition are visiting for another viewing before the closure of the Cynthia Reeves Gallery in Hanover, Aker said.
“They came back several times and brought friends,” Aker said. “They were enjoying the rawness of the material and the way the birds were presented. There’s a bit of mystery to it. There are also families that come in and enjoy seeing the work. Some families are from Hanover, some from New York. They enjoy seeing the work firsthand.”
After the “Full Circle” exhibition, the Cynthia Reeves Gallery will find its new home in the Ever-Normal Granary, a barn complex on Route 12 currently being renovated as an art center.
“This is a wonderful new footprint for the gallery, affording us a great deal more space, high ceilings to accommodate the large scale works in our program and, most importantly, a broad swath of open space to create a sculpture garden adjacent to the barn,” Cynthia Reeves, director of the gallery, said. “It could ultimately become a true destination for contemporary art.”
The “Full Circle” exhibit at the Cynthia Reeves Gallery will run through Sept. 22. The Gallery is located in downtown Hanover at 57 South Main St.