Three artists share their unique world-views with Carlisle

by Anne Marie Brako

From the exhibition publicity: “Dappled Things” depicting landscape in mixed media and oil on canvas by Caroline Rufo, “By a New Path” monotype print collage of human portraiture by Joni Levi Liberman, and “Backlit,” monotype print of a bird by Elizabeth Carter.

Printmaker Joni Levy Liberman shares her work along with that of two of her students, Caroline Rufo and Elizabeth Carter, in the Art at the Gleason show titled “What We See” running until September 29. The artist teaches printmaking at the Jewish Community Center in Newton where Rufo and Carter have studied together in one of Liberman’s classes for the past three years.

“We have become collaborators and are all students and teachers,” says the modest Liberman, who has taught at the Center since 2001. “I feel incredibly lucky to have them in my life as friends and colleagues.”

“I’m primarily a painter,” shares Rufo, “but was looking for something to shake up my painting process, and I ended up embarking on a whole new body of work. I love to see this work hanging beside Elizabeth’s and Joni’s pieces because in many cases I saw their prints being pulled right from the press – and they saw mine.”

You can meet with the artists to discuss their working process and iconic visions at a library reception on September 17 from 1 to 2:30pm. The program will provide light refreshments at the event.

Taking a closer look at the teacher

Liberman, based in Needham, calls her work “an exploration of every day – a celebration of the ordinary.” She tries to work as an artist every day, and draws her inspiration from her surroundings which might be “the Siamese twin yellow squash from my garden or the double-yolked egg that surprises me in the morning or a story in the newspaper.”

You can see her extraordinary results that begin as “monotypes,” one-of-a-kind prints – created in a printmaking studio using “brayers, inks, plate, press, collage papers, and often, a pencil.” After the printmaking is done, she adds to the work using “gouache, colored pencils, and ‘caran d’ache’ crayon.” She cuts up the prints to puzzle them together into a new composition. You can view some of the finished products in the 19 pieces on exhibit at the Gleason.

The artist earned a master’s degree in Art Therapy from Lesley College and a B.F.A. in Printmaking and Art Education from UMass Amherst. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she began work as an illustrator for a wide variety of clients, including publishers such as The Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun and Houghton-Mifflin. She created posters for the Boston Lyric Opera and for events at various colleges. In the last year alone, she has had solo exhibits in Natick and New Haven and has participated in numerous group shows as well over the past decade. She received two awards in 1990 from Print’s Regional Design Annual and the New England Associated Press (first place illustration).

Consider the two “students” as professionals

Rufo, also from Needham, enjoys painting landscapes and still life objects directly as she observes them or from her imagination. In her more abstract work  she often includes collage elements.  She finds herself fascinated “by the way paths and roads can look like rivers or blood vessels. Branches and roots can look like neurons or like shadows of themselves. The shapes occur in our bodies, in vegetation, and in the networks we build as communities.”

Rufo also brings 19 works to the library. She works as an artist today. She earned her master’s at the Massachusetts  College of Art in Studio for Interrelated Media and an undergraduate degree in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. She was a founding member of the artists collective called the “Tea Group” from 1993 until 2003 .The Tea Group created video installations and was featured on the Today Show. She has exhibited in numerous galleries throughout the New England area over the past decade, and had a solo show last year in New London, New Hampshire.

Carter, a Newton native, describes her work as exploring “a shifting line between chaos, order abstraction and representation.” She uses disparate objects and symbols “to create new worlds – miniature landscapes, reliquaries and intimate environments.” Her works are completed as sculpture, monoprint and collage or a combination of media. She likes to repurpose objects “found at the ocean, in the garden or at the hardware store and combine them into something untried.” Carter earned her MFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and a BFA in printmaking at the Massachusetts College of Art. She has also exhibited extensively at galleries in New England over the past decade.

Draw your own conclusion

The three artists with work on display at the Gleason share similar training experiences and have worked in a collaborative situation for the past three years. However, their results are different and unique. While the works are intermingled throughout the exhibit at the Gleason, once you have identified each of the three’s unique styles, you will find that you don’t have to look at the labels to identify the creator.

All the works are appealing and intriguing. As Liberman suggested, the line between teacher and student has become vague. All three are artists presenting a unique view. It is up to you to figure out which approach you like best. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  ∆