Gleason Library showcases three New England artists

by Cynthia Sorn

Flowing water, ancient stones and deep shadows: these are some of the images visitors will see in the art exhibit at the Gleason Library through July. Three New England artists—oil painter Louise Arnold, photographer Dianne Bunis and sculptor William Bloomfield—have their intriguing creations featured on the first and second floors. The public is invited to meet the artists on Saturday, June 1 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at a reception at the Gleason Library.

“Art at the Gleason” is curated by Jean Barry, Amy Livens, Emily Stewart and Andrea Urban. Approximately six exhibits a year are held at the Gleason Library and include photography, illustrations, drawings, interactive art, paintings and works on fabric, among others. Additionally, a yearly student art show is held (see “Carlisle student art brightens Gleason Library,” April 24.)

Though all three current artists work in different mediums, it is nature and movement that connect all three exhibits. Arnold’s paintings pull the viewer into her various New England landscapes, while Bunis captures the natural world through the lens of her camera. Bloomfield sculptures with sumptuous stones such as alabaster and steatites, letting the lines in the rock guide his results.

How were the artists chosen for the exhibit? “There was no connection between the artists currently showing at the Gleason...other than we usually like to pair artists that complement one another,” explained Livens. “The curators meet several times and we go through our potential list of artists (after we review their work) for an upcoming year and pick artists that “work” together and are interesting pairings.” Urban said the shows at Gleason are popular with artists. “We are booked through 2014 and now planning 2015!” Artists are not paid for their exhibits. “We have no budget and therefore we do not fund any of the artists,” added Urban. “We are all volunteers and it is the Friends of the Gleason Library that sponsors the program.”

Louise Arnold

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Louise Arnold’s painting, “Leer” captures an old car with a wry smile. (Photo by Luke Anagnostopoulos

Arnold, a Concord resident, has a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University. “I think that my background in landscape architecture influenced my work to some extent,” she said, contacted by email. “My training emphasized getting to know the character of the landscape one was engaged with —the spirit or genius loci—of a site, as well as its landforms, unique features/geology and its cultural landscape. This involves paying attention to the context in which one is working. It also involves careful observation of a given site.”

Arnold explained how she pulls the viewer into and through her paintings. “Part of an artist’s job is to get the viewer’s eye to move around the painting, even when static objects are present,” she said. In “Upstream II” Arnold has placed a solid and formidable boulder in the front lower right of her scene, while eddies of creek water swirl around it. “Sometimes I’ll see a sky with very dramatic fast moving clouds and I’ll try to capture their energy on canvas. If I’m aiming for a particular mood—one that’s more agitated as opposed to calm—I will emphasize movement to a greater degree.” Asked what inspires her, she replied, “I might choose a subject based on the mood I’m in on a particular day, or a particular motif might keep recurring, which may have to do with issues I’m preoccupied with at the time the work was painted, but that often occurs on an unconscious level, and I’ll only become aware of it at a later date. Sometimes the quality of light will transform a subject and I’ll see it in a whole new way as if I’m just discovering it for the first time even though I might have gazed on that specific scene hundreds of times, and that’s very exciting for me. Often I’m struck by wonderful abstract forms I see emerging from the landscape and want to explore that in my work.”

Arnold sometimes combines old machinery with nature, such as in “Leer,” a painting of an old car sitting in a field, looking poised to drive toward the viewer. The abandoned tractor in the painting “Old Massey,” though, is facing away from the viewer and appears to be caught mid-plowing. She explained, “The old cars and trucks I paint have wonderful personalities and actually remind me of people I know so they become stand-ins for some of my friends and acquaintances!”

There are phenomenal details in some of her paintings. For example, in “Landscape with Hopper III” the rushing clouds mirror the lines in the field, but off in the distance, if the viewer looks closely, a section of overturned earth can be seen. “Some of my work is more detailed and some more pared down or abstracted. I actually enjoy working both ways. Ultimately, I’m striving to combine objective and more abstract elements within a given work. It’s a great challenge but I enjoy the exploration.” Equally detailed and serene is “Ebb and Flow,” a deceptively simple-appearing coastal painting that captures the sand patterns as the tide makes its way on and off the shore.

Arnold’s husband, Niall, is also a landscape architect and an architect and their daughter is studying theatre at Ithaca College. “Now that we are empty nesters I am able to split my time between Concord and Greensboro, Vermont, whose landscape is the inspiration for much of my work. Long ago I taught art at the elementary school level, but am now devoting my time to concentrating on my own artwork which is demanding physically, emotionally and intellectually, but is rewarding beyond words—in fact, I would say that I’m endeavoring through my work to express what words can’t —the ineffable.”

Dianne Bunis

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"Plum Island Boardwalk” by Dianne Bunis. Taken with an iPhone 4.
(Courtesy photo)

The photography exhibit by Bunis, a resident of Groton, compares traditional black and white photographs taken with a large format Tachihara field camera with a relatively new experience for her—photos taken with her iPhone 4S. The two methods couldn’t be more different; when she photographs the New England landscape with her field camera she meticulously measures the light in each area of the scene, calculating the level for each segment, or zone within the frame using a method similar to Ansel Adams’s, called the “Zone System.” Reached by phone she explained the final photograph captured with a field camera is a product of a long process. “I hike around until I see something,” she explained, looking for a particular light or scene that catches her eye. She sets up her tripod and the large field camera with 4 x 5 film sheets, and uses her light meter to gauge the exposure for the key area of her scene. She writes down the light measurements for the areas around the key area, sets her values and takes her shots. “I use this system because that’s what I learned… it’s the most accurate in detailing shadows,” she said. “I really owe credit to Professor Nick Johnson at the New England School of Photography for encouraging me to work with larger negatives,” she said. “He recognized my vision and my ability and my passion.”

The detail and clarity produced in her photos is striking. The large film format means her photos don’t have to be enlarged to the extent that 35mm film or even digital photos would require. A cropped section of her photo would be clear and precise. So why is she also using an iPhone? She explained that after her old flip phone broke she purchased an iPhone 4S, and had an urge to try out the phone’s camera last winter. “One day in February I took a ride to the beach,” she said. In the spur of the moment she started taking photos, charging the phone in her car when the battery became low. “Then I would look at them and think about how they compare.”

The difference in processes couldn’t be greater. Unlike the instant photo with the iPhone (which she does modify using some applications), Bunis estimates it takes her multiple days to shoot and process one photo taken with the field camera. Developing the film is a long procedure. “I might spend all day Saturday, sometimes Sunday, in the darkroom,” she said. There are chemicals to mix and to cool if the temperature is too warm, and then she has to process, fix, wash and hang the film. Each 4 x 5 sheet of film is developed separately. “In one night I might go through the whole process two or three times.” She said she will continue with her two types of photography, explaining, “There’s a lot of passion and it takes a lot of patience. It is very rewarding.”

She said her father inspired her to take up photography. “He wasn’t a fine art photographer, but he captured everything,” she explained, including his experience in Hawaii during World War II. “He bought me my first camera.”

Bunis is also a photojournalist and has written for several news organizations, including Media News and Gatehouse Media. Her most recent solo exhibit was at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Concord.

William Bloomfield

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William Bloomfield’s gentle sculpture, “Wave Action I” appears frozen in mid-tide. (Photo by Luke Anagnostopoulos)

If stones could dance, Bloomfield’s sculptures would be weaving and waving instead of sitting calmly under their display cases. Each piece has a flow, a movement and an attitude, looking poised for flight. His beautiful stones are carved into graceful curves and edgy lines and the sculptures are abstract. The soapstone piece “Kinesis” could be likened to a Möbius loop, giving the feeling of endlessness. A solid looking piece made

the feeling of endlessness. A solid- looking piece made from steatite, named “Unitivity Theory,” has a smooth, gentle side and an active, etched side, perhaps containing elements of gravity, magnetism and all the other items in the Unitivity Theory which was penned by author Leroy Amunrud.

Bloomfield has had a multitude of interests, including a successful acting career. He has a Doctorate in International Development from Brandeis University. How did he become a sculptor? “I actually started with stones about 30 years ago,” he said in a phone interview. “I started with defined subjects,” he explained, and was striving at that time to make realistic renderings. He put aside sculpturing for about 25 years, he said. “About seven years ago I picked it up again.” He took a course at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln and found he enjoyed working with stone in a more organic way, he said. He explained that now when he works with stone he isn’t really sure what the final result will be. “I am taking all the skill set techniques that I have developed and learned over the last seven to eight years, which allow the energy to flow with the stone.”

As he works he may encounter what some would call imperfections, for example, small bits of stone, sand, dust and rock embedded in the rock. “It’s all potential art,” he explained. “I leave pieces of the stone that were fired a million years ago.”

Bloomfield was asked why his pieces are labeled “NFS” (not for sale). “I can’t release the originals…they are much too personal for me,” he said, though he added that he has had many requests to purchase his sculptures. He said a typical piece, such as the graceful calcite sculpture “Wave Action I,” can take over 40 hours to produce. The amount of time depends on the size of the piece and the details, he added. He recently received a commission for a public piece, though he hasn’t yet released the details. “It will be a really attractive site,” he said. “What they want is something that kids can walk under and sit on.” When he exhibits his sculptures without the protective covers, he said, people like to pet them. “People can’t keep their hands off of them.” He added, “I’m exploring doing smaller pieces in resin or bronze or some other medium that feels substantial and looks good, but is not expensive.”

His two-piece exhibit of “Siblings” won a first place in the ARTslant 2013 Juried Showcase Series, the only sculpture to be awarded a prize, according to Bloomfield. His work will be displayed in Chicago and will be entered into a final competition where the winning entries will be displayed in Miami.

Bloomfield said his acting career is doing well. He just finished up a couple of Indie films. “Three or four films are coming up in the next year,” he said. He will continue to develop his acting career as well as his sculpturing. “Many artists start off knowing what will happen when they carve,” he said. He recalled one time when he was trying to sculpture an owl, but the result, while striking, was not anything like he expected. His wife admired it and said though he knew him well she was surprised it came from him. “I am exploring how you can create movement, integrated movement in stone. It’s pretty challenging,” he said.

For more on Art at the Gleason see www.gleasonlibrary.org/art.htm. ∆