Beauty and realism shine at the Gleason Public Library

by Karina Coombs

A sampling of the items on display in “Beauty and Utility, Artfully Crafted.” (Photo by Karina Coombs)

Simultaneously curating two shows for 32 artists—ten of whom are exhibiting multiple pieces—is no easy feat. But Gleason Library curators Jean Barry, Andrea Urban, Amy Livens and Emily Stewart have successfully done just that with Gleason’s current art exhibits running now until late December. 

“Beauty & Utility, Artfully Crafted” is an impressive collection of works from ten members of The Carlisle Artisans. Many of the pieces are also for sale, with 20% of the proceeds going to Gleason. The second show, “Realism—Of Things and People,” presents fine art pieces created by 22 art students representing Carlisle and other local communities. Instructor Alma Bella Solis includes the work of both adults and children. 

Beauty & utility, artfully crafted

Can artisans be both craftspeople and artists? Is functionality the benchmark for determining if an object is art or craft? Is there a clear difference between the two? And, if so, should there be? The Carlisle Artisans explore these questions and more in their current show with a collection of pieces that are sometimes useful and sometimes purely decorative, but always stunning examples of the beautiful things people can create no matter the form.

Exhibiting a wide array of skills, the collection is located on the first and second floors of Gleason in both obvious and not so obvious locations, encouraging the viewer to explore areas high and low. Pieces include painted works in oil, acrylic or watercolor; hand-colored prints; fine art photography; knitted, felted, woven and sewn creations; handmade pottery, jewelry and more. “I’m really proud of this group,” said Barbara Lewis of Full Moon Fabric Sewlutions, a co-founder of the Carlisle Artisans. 

Carlisle creations

Wool throw woven by Nancy Kronenberg of Rosepath Weaving.

The first floor lobby has a central viewing area that includes items from each of the artisans arranged in mini collections. An oil painting by Tom Veirs, watercolors by both D’Ann Brownrigg and Françoise Bourdon, hand-colored drawings by Steve Perko of New England Streetscapes and a photograph from Dennis Rainville of DR Fine Art Photography cover the wall. 

The Kitchen Collection includes an apron and granola from Debbie O’Kelly of Golden Girl Granola and pottery and utensils by Diane Delgado of Saxon Designs. A Knitting Corner Collection includes a wet-felted pillow by Cindy Craft of Subito Farm and a shawl woven by Nancy Kronenberg of Rosepath Weaving. “Look at how it moves,” described Kronenberg as she positioned the shawl. “It’s like linen.” She explained it was made of wool from a rare British sheep. 

Another unique item on display in this area is the Carlisle jacket. It is a perfect representation of the artisans’ ability to collaborate with the community and one another. The wool used in the jacket is courtesy of Iris and Lacy, two Tunis sheep from Sunflower Farm. It was handspun and dyed by Craft before it was woven by Kronenberg. Lewis sewed the jacket and Delgado provided its toggles as well as a hand-forged necklace used in the display.

The Carlisle Artisans

Pastel by Arianna Quayle, a Carlisle third grader.(Photo by Karina Coombs)

The Carlisle Artisans formed in 2009 after an ad was placed in the Carlisle Mosquito. Lewis and co-founder Debbie O’Kelly of Golden Girl Granola had been selling their wares at the Farmers Market for a number of years and were looking to expand their individual businesses. The women placed an ad in the Mosquito for an in-home sale event and garnered the attention of other local artists. The idea for a local group of artists took shape.

The group has had a number of local shows throughout the year and is also part of the Heald House open house the third Sunday of each month. Individual members also attend shows and gallery events individually. While growth has been slow according to Lewis, the Carlisle Artisans currently have 11 members. Its newest member is Brownrigg, a watercolor painter for 20 years who joined the group several weeks ago. “Why did it take you so long to join?” Lewis recently asked her. Brownrigg explained that she thought the term artisan didn’t apply to her work since she describes herself as an artist. Then the two sat down at the Gleason to discuss the very theme of the show.

Oil and line art

Another new member to the Carlisle Artisans is Tom Veirs, who has a number of oil paintings in the exhibit. Veirs, with a background in theater and set design, began painting by taking watercolor classes with Brownrigg, who was admiring his work on the day his pieces were hung. Veirs then moved on to acrylics before finally settling on oils. “I didn’t like how fast [the acrylics] dried,” said Veirs, explaining oils dried much slower, sometimes too slowly. 

Veirs explained he typically works on three to six paintings at a time, letting things dry and then going back to pieces at some point when he realizes “there’s something worthwhile there.” Now that he has been painting for a little over two years, Veirs knows what he likes: finding a “pop” of color in each of his pieces and geometrics.  

One member of the group has created a charming series of line art streetscapes, depicting such notable Carlisle buildings as Ferns, Kimball Farm and Gleason. Steve Perko has been working on his architectural drawings for six years, as long as he has lived in town. Perko explained that the drawing process began with several photographs of each building in an attempt to capture unique architectural characteristics. He then does a 3D analysis of what each building would look like if viewed straight, considering different roof heights and slopes and other unique details. 

In addition to his local images, those of neighboring Concord and other landmarks in Boston and beyond, the show also has Perko’s first attempt at painting. Found in the Children’s Room is one of his Carlisle streetscapes done in acrylic, a process that allowed him to give texture to his work. Perko would ultimately like to donate the painting to Town Hall, explaining he wanted to see it in the stairwell joining a number of van Gogh paintings. “As far as I know, van Gogh never lived in Carlisle,” said Perko.

Artist reception and Gleason events

The Carlisle Artisans show will run until December 30. Artist biographies and price sheets are included in the scrapbook near the main floor central display. Prices are also listed on most items. The scrapbook also contains news clippings included to foster discussion on the show’s central theme of art versus craft. 

A “Meet the Artisans” reception will be held on Saturday, November 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. and will include interactive demonstrations in the Hollis Room and a drawing program with Steve Perko in the Children’s Room. 

Dennis Rainville will host a photography lecture entitled, “The Art of Digital Photography” on November 20 at 7 p.m. in the Hollis Room. Links to individual artist websites may be found on the Carlisle Artisan homepage at:

Realism—Of Things and People

Located on the third floor stairwell outside of the Children’s Library, viewers will find the second of Gleason’s art exhibits entitled, “Realism—Of Things and People.” Created by students of Alma Bella Solis from classes she taught in Chelmsford, Littleton, Bedford, Lexington, Newton and Carlisle, the collection has 22 pieces, nine of them by children.

The works were done in charcoal and dry pastel on 18” x 24” drawing pads and include both still life and portraits. Students were taught various shading and blending methods to give the illusion of depth and light to their images, learning to produce four techniques found in the Renaissance art Solis admires: cangiante, sfumato, unione and chiaroscuro. “I am blessed that people who signed up in my sessions were dedicated, enthusiastic and interested to learn my methods,” she said.

Carlisle students

Since 2010, Solis has taught a number of studio art classes through the Recreation Department. Parent-child studio classes were first offered in 2012 and have proved popular. 

Laura Quayle and her third-grade daughter Arianna represent Carlisle in the current Gleason exhibition. While both Laura and Arianna have taken art classes in the past, neither had experience using pastels before working with Solis. Laura’s image of “The Barn Owl,” and Arianna’s, “The Fierce Eyes of a Wolf,” were mostly produced over four, two-hour classes. Neither artist has been part of a gallery show before and both are excited for the event and reception. “It was a lot of hard work to get the picture done and I am very proud of it,” said Arianna.

Artist reception and classes

The Realism show will be at Gleason until December 28 with a reception on Saturday, November 16 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. 

Registration is currently open for a parent and child charcoal and pastel drawing class taught by Alma from November 8 to December 13 through the Recreation Commission. The class is for ages eight and older and runs for five weeks at Town Hall. Those interested may register by phone at 1-978-369-9815 or online at  ∆