Gleason art show features nature and self-discovery 

by Cynthia Sorn

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Detail from “Zebras,” a painting by Andrea Harrington. (Photo by Cynthia Sorn) 

The latest installation of art at the Gleason Public Library is an exciting collection of visions and styles. Called “Collaboration: A Mixed Media Event,” the work represents a variety of mediums with a common theme of nature, exploration of self and evolution of vision. Included in the show are two painters: Andrea Harrington and Ronald Hubbard. Both have vastly different styles within their own exhibits. Also included are fascinating paper creations of miniature books and dioramas by writer Patricia Sarrafian Ward, who used her art to explore her evolution as a writer. Jewelry artist Lisa Heffley brings nature-inspired creations which are both delicate and bold. Rounding out the show is a generous collection of beautiful photographs by members of the Sudbury Valley Nature Photographers, depicting publicly accessible river locations on the Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers. The River Stewardship Council collaborated with the photographers to bring this exhibit to the library. 

The public is invited to meet the artists and have a special after hours viewing at the Artists Reception on Friday, November 20, from 7 to  9 p.m. The cost is $10 per person. The majority of the art is for sale and the reception is an opportunity to get a close look at these unique pieces. 

Paintings full of sharp details and bright colors

Visitors will thoroughly enjoy Andrea Harrington’s stunning acrylic paintings, some of which are of wildlife. In “Zebras” she captures a herd crossing a stream. Viewing the painting we get a sense of the animals enjoying the cool water as they leisurely swim. On the other hand, anxiety and intensity are evoked by the painting “Over the Bridge” as wildebeests clamber down a steep, dusty hillside into a rushing river thick with lurking crocodiles. In both paintings the movement of the water—softly rippling or quickly swirling—sets the tone. Her other large wildlife painting, “Harrington Pond’s Goslings,” is a charmer. Who can resist baby geese gathered in a downy nest? Another example of her detail-rich painting is “Three Towns Cranberry Bog I.” Birch tree trunks, with their linear bark lines, are in sharp focus in the forefront while behind the trees are the flows of cranberry plants reaching in the distance. Contrasted with the almost photographic details of these paintings are her latest works. In her artist’s statement she explains that her “latest paintings explore an abstract vision and a new interpretation on artist’s perception of the world.” In “Millstone I” and Millstone II” she uses bold, exciting colors, strong outlines and eschews the fine details. Her works have been featured in galleries in Boston and her sculpture of a matador is part of the permanent collection at the Cape Cod Museum of Art. 

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“The Neighbors,” a watercolor by Ronald Hubbard. (Photo by Cynthia Sorn) 

Master the mediums, enjoy the process

 Ronald Hubbard’s paintings hung in the library are done in oil, acrylics and watercolor. Asked why he switches between the three mediums, he explained, “I have primarily used oil paint as my medium. I actually never intended to paint in watercolor in any concentrated way, but when my kids were younger, I didn’t have a studio outside of my house and I started painting with watercolor because it has no toxic fumes and can be picked up, and put down quickly.” Hubbard paints with a brush but he will also take up the pallet knife.

He said he likes to feel the paint and the texture as he works and he likes to challenge himself. Whatever the medium, he often paints the sky sparely, letting the canvas pop through as if he is working in watercolors. But then he may use a pallet knife to thickly apply paint to bring a three-dimensional feel to a hill or a pasture. “Lately, I have been using the palette knife a lot because I never have really tried to master it. If you notice, the thicker texture is usually in the foreground to give a feeling of depth, so it isn’t so much because of subject, but is a spatial device or technique.” 

His watercolors are infused with light and dance, such as in “The Neighbors,” with their porch chairs just waiting to be sat in. In his oil paintings he features many ocean scenes, for example, “Essex River Marsh IV” and “Penobscot Bay I.” Asked why some areas are painted lightly, he explained, “So, if I paint something thinly with oils or acrylics it is because it gives me more delicate or poetic feelings when I see it. If I paint it thicker, it is either just technical or because I feel it needs that to feel the way I feel when I see it or think about it.” In his artist’s statement he said he wants to “make a marriage between realism and abstraction.” He added that instead of copying nature, he uses nature to create. Hubbard is a graduate of the Boston University College of Fine Arts. His website is www.ronhubbardfineart.com. He is represented by the Art Exchange Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico and his work can be seen at www.aegallery.com.  

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“Re/Vision,” installation by Patricia Ward. (Photo by Cynthia Sorn) 

Art born from frustration, happily idle through success

Patricia Ward’s unique display of paper, dioramas and miniature books, created during 2008, was born through her frustration at receiving a rejection letter for one of her books. The exploration of the medium led to the creation of “themes of wartime experience, depression and the creative process,” she explains. She added, “The installation guides the viewer along my journey of confronting and moving beyond rejection, to delving into the themes of war, nostalgia and loss that permeate my writing, to finally reaching the roots of these themes and incorporating the memorabilia I have carried with me since I left Lebanon.” 

One of her pieces, “Re/Vision,” is created out of shredded pieces of an unfinished novel. She said it “recreates a crucial moment in my career, when I was revising a novel and found myself blocked by the pressure to publish and the dread of further rejection. It became clear that I must change my path. I printed a copy of the novel and shredded it, with this act directly confronting my fear that the novel might ‘fail.’”

She said, “When I faced the mammoth pile of shreds, I felt intense grief and regret. But I also experienced something I hadn’t felt in a long time—the thrill of not knowing where I was going.  I had ideas, fresh, vibrant, unfettered by convention. I realized this was the way back to my true self as an artist, and so I went.” Ward has a new novel slated for release in January 2016, published by Talos Press, titled Skinner Luce. Asked if she uses her paper artwork in her creative process as a writer, she replied, “It is a finished work that emerged during a particular time in my career, and it is unlikely that I would return to this form as it was specific to the journey I was on at the time.” Her website is: www.patriciasarrafianward.com  

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“Once in a Blue Moon” pin, by Lisa Heffley. (Photo by Cynthia Sorn) 

Explorative, whimsical jewelry vibrates with nature

Copper, coconut, brass, wood, feathers, bone, silver… these are some of the elements that make up Lisa Heffley’s jewelry. Her creations sport a variety of shapes and textures and revel in freedom from strict unified balance. Her “Once in a Blue Moon” pin, made of copper and sterling with a beautiful opal, has the appearance of a half-moon with lines swirling the surface. Heffley explains, “Using the alchemical process of Metalsmithing I aim to unfold “True Nature” as it relates to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being.” She uses coconut shell in her earrings and bone pieces for pendant backgrounds. Her “Lotus Necklace” is a combination of leopard skin jasper and pierced lotus, hung on a horizontal sterling silver bar with a silver chain. “As I work, the piece informs me about these four aspects,” she says. “This organic process surprises and delights as the work evolves. We are continuously repeating some microcosmic element of ourselves. This dynamic relationship intrigues, inspires and humbles me.” She has created dramatic feather earrings, using flicker or chicken feathers. Other pieces are simple, elegant and understated, for example her sterling and copper stud earrings. Heffley explains, “I prefer to use organic materials or a representation of mother nature. Various combinations of metals, found bones, stones, feathers, wood, pearls, petrified dinosaur bones  and leather at some point find their way into my expressions. These natural elements connect and inform our psyche metaphorically, literally, archetypically and sensually.” Heffley has a studio in Maynard at Artspace Maynard on Summer Street.

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Detail from a photograph of the Assabet River, by Sue Abrahamsen. (Photo by Cynthia Sorn) 

Photographs will inspire river visits

Complementing the mixed-media is the delightful display of photographs which highlight local recreation opportunities. The River Stewardship Council (RSC) (http://www.sudbury-assabet-concord.org) explains it has “identified 21 publicly accessible locations where the entire family could go on an adventure along the Wild and Scenic Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers. The Wild and Scenic segments of the rivers stretch 29 miles. The rivers have no dams or other man-made obstructions on these sections, and have the outstanding resource values of ecology, scenery, recreation, history and American literature. The towns represented in the photographs are Framingham, Wayland, Sudbury, Bedford, Billerica, Carlisle, Concord and Lincoln.” The large photographs are beautiful, peaceful and inviting. 

As an example, Sue Abrahamsen’s “Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge” in Sudbury is striking, with the reflection in the deep blue water mirroring the trees and sky above. Raj Das’s photo of Heard Pond in Wayland with the rounded rocks and misty water has the look of the quiet seashore. Das also captured the Concord River peeking through the trees at Foss Farm in Carlisle. Other photographers from the Sudbury Valley Nature Photographers (http://svnp.homestead.com) include Mark Hopkins, Hendrick Broekman, Barbara Peskin, Wayne Hall, Carol Walsh, Betsy Moyer and Steve Gabeler. Visitors can pick up a “family friendly” map denoting spots which are highlighted in the photographs. 

Don’t miss the opportunity to meet the artists at the November 20 reception and celebrate this nature-filled show. For more information on the reception, see: http://gleasonlibrary.org/art.htm.