ART NEW ENGLAND ONLINE, JUNE 2013 “Seven On Site Exhibit” by Martha Poppin
To say someone paints en plein air, a French term for "in the open air," is to conjure up an artist seated at an easel outdoors, under an umbrella, depicting specific landscape features more or less faithfully. This held true for much of the 19th century, when the practice originated, but today's artists have expanded the concept. The range of contemporary approaches to plein air painting can be seen in the exhibition Seven on Site, on view until the end of June at the Oxbow Gallery in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Seven on Site features an informal association of landscape painters who live and paint across the country. The seven - Martha Armstrong (Hatfield, MA); Sasha Chermayeff (Hudson Valley); Jane Culp (California); Judy Koon (Chicago); Ro Lohin (Long Island); Lynette Lombard (Galesburg, IL); and Megan Williamson (Chicago) - joined forces to show together out of a shared commitment to painting on site. Their unconventional works emphasize expressive form and brushwork over changes in light effects, weather, and time of day, the more traditional concerns of plein air painting. These seven artists may paint some or most or all of a landscape outdoors, but none produces a direct transcription of nature. While grounded in reality, each interprets distinctively.
Williamson, on the other hand, pulls her forms to the picture surface, like the other artists in the exhibition. Her buildings and trees make a foreground screen, as in Landscape with Fences. Bright colors create a sense of movement, as does varied and lively brushwork.
Martha Hoppin is an independent curator of American art.