LANCASTER ONLINE, MARCH 2015 – "Landscape show 'Seven on Site' opens at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design" by Jane Holahan

 

We live in hectic times, rushing around, barely noticing the world around us.

Take a breath. Go see “Seven on Site,” opening Friday at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design.

Seven contemporary landscape artists are featured in the show. Each one offers paintings that ask you to stop and take a look.

“They live in different parts of the country, and they don’t paint together, but they all place value on a slow way of seeing as they respond to nature directly,” says Heidi Leitzke, gallery director at PCA&D. Each paints en plein air, a French term that means in the open air, or specifically, outdoors. The painters are Martha Armstrong, Sasha Chermayeff, Jane Culp, Judy Koon, Ro Lohin, Lynette Lombard and Megan Williamson.

“Their range of painting styles is pretty diverse,” Leitzke says. “What’s nice is, you can see a variety of approaches, but they still have the same concerns. Take the time to slow down and look. I personally find their work really compelling.”

Not necessarily pastoral

“Landscape is not a hot subject,” says Williamson, who lives and works in Chicago. “But it has certainly stood the test of time, and if you can bring a meditative experience to someone, that is a good thing.” But if you’re picturing an artist in a field daubing paint on a canvas while bees buzz nearby and water laps at the shore, think again. Williamson paints urban, even industrialized scenes. “A beautiful place can be two steps from wherever you are. I keep seeing places and thinking that there is a painting there. Light hitting a Coke bottle can be beautiful.” One of her works features a mountain of salt used to clear roads of ice and snow. “Someone who saw that painting said ,‘I always thought that salt pile was beautiful.’ Another painting, of the Cal Sag canal, is a really industrialized site. The water is polluted, but it is beautiful too.” En plein aire painting is not for the faint of heart. “I compare it to camping,” Williamson says. “You’ve got to bring all your supplies, and something won’t work, so you’ll have to make do.” She sometimes paints near highways and in the midst of industrial areas, but she also enjoys city gardens. “I drive around a lot in my car, looking for things, seeing how beautiful everything is, seeing the fluidness of the movement around me.”

Coming together

In 2008, Williamson brought five artists together in a show called “Five in the Field” in Chelsea, New York. And then in 2013, “Seven on Site” was shown in North Hampton, Massachusetts. (“I like alliteration,” she says with a laugh.) The 2013 exhibit featured new work, and each of the seven artists brought three to five paintings to the show.

Koon painted a series of beach scenes in Ireland that show the expansiveness and loneliness of the shore. Lohin works in a more abstract style, her canvas a frenzy of color and shape, a suggestion of the lushness of a garden, a backyard. Armstrong includes several paintings she did at Lake Gretna that offer a serene feeling in a canvas of shapes. Lombard works in a more abstract style, her colors whirling in motion. Culp explores mountains and their hard, yet earthy colors and shapes. And Chermayeff’s distinct style results in work oozing with paint and brushstrokes, offering different landscapes in what seems like different worlds. Although these seven women don’t paint together, they admire one other’s work. “Maybe we are a mutual admiration society,” Williamson says with a laugh. “Artists spend a lot of time alone with their dogs and (with) landscape painting, even more so, ” Williamson says. “So it’s good to get a response, to see each other’s work.”

A panel discussion and reception will be held March 26, featuring Martha Armstrong, Judy Koon, Ro Lohin and Megan Williamson. It will be moderated by Jennifer Samet, a New York based art historian, curator and writer.