A feeling of Zen, now at the Gleason Public Library

by Karina Coombs

12aKC LindquistBowls
A collection of ceramic bowls from Melinda Lindquist, showcasing a range of Shino glazes, designs, textures and techniques. Also included in this display are examples of split vessels—one of which includes the artist’s trademark fish design. Numerous other ceramic pieces can be found throughout the library, ranging from delicate porcelain canisters to large planters and garden
(Photo by Karina Coombs)

The Art at the Gleason series opened its third show of the year featuring three local artists whose collective works blend together to create a sense of peaceful reflection. “Maria, Mark & Melinda: An Art Exhibition” showcases the ceramic work of Carlisle’s Melinda Lindquist, sculptural pieces by Maria Lewis, also of Carlisle and the art photography of Concord’s Mark Hopkins. Gleason will hold a reception for the artists on Saturday, April 29. 

A lifelong love of ceramics

Melinda Lindquist discovered ceramics as a high school student in Michigan, having attended a school with an associated art institute. “Ceramics just attracted me like a magnet,” she says of the experience. While she continued working with ceramics during college, it was only after her own children began high school that Lindquist seriously returned to it and began working out of The Umbrella Community Arts Center. She now has her own pottery wheel at home, but continues to visit Concord to use the Umbrella’s electric and gas kilns, the latter for pieces that require high heat.

“This show is really a lot of fun for me because this is more of an opportunity to show people in the community what I’ve been working on,” says Lindquist, who works in a variety of media within ceramics. Looking at her work, which can be found on both the first and second floor of the library, a viewer will see a range of styles from delicate bowls and small containers to larger planters featuring a series of horse designs as well as a series of green stoneware cylinders that were all about experimentation. “I had so much fun [with those],” she says. “There was a lot of destruction along the way.” Lindquist’s collection also includes two garden bells, something she continues to focus on. 

Shino glazes

Lindquist’s high fired Shino or Japanese glaze pieces feature prominently in her show and feature vivid shades of orange-—the color produced from a lack of oxygen when the pieces are fired. Wax is used to create designs, explains Lindquist, and the result can be a variety of golds, oranges and blacks left behind on the piece. “There are a lot of different techniques to play with,” she says. “There’s a part of it that’s really fun to work with the clay, part of it that’s really interesting to work just thinking about the textures and colors, and then there’s the Christmas surprise of opening the kiln and seeing what actually happened.” 

To see more of her work, visit Lindquist’s website at http://melinda lindquist.weebly.com and the Carlisle Artisans Gallery on 13 Lowell Road. She is currently working on tableware, bells, birdbaths and sculptures, and is available to work directly with customers. To see more of her garden bells, visit the Carlisle Garden Tour on June 10 and 11 where they will be suspended from large wooden Japanese hangers. 

Translating text into art

12bKC MariaLewisArt
One of 49 works that comprise the “Gateless Gate” series by Maria Lewis floats in a first floor window. The minimalist paper pieces were inspired by 13th century Zen koans and take on a different appearance throughout the day as light exposes the stitching and pinholes.
(Photo by Karina Coombs)

In Maria Lewis’s Carlisle studio is the first painting she ever did, in 1982. “The early work looks so different,” she says when considering how her art has evolved. “It’s been a lifetime of work to get here.” Lewis’s love of art began early and has stayed with her, as has folding -—a technique she uses in her sculptural pieces that also started when she was very young. A two-period high school art class “that she was lucky enough to get into,” was followed by the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and 20 years in a studio at The Umbrella. “It’s a whole world on its own, art.” 

While the medium might change, books involving religion or spirituality serve as constant inspiration in her work, which Lewis translates into art. “Normally I do work from a book,” she says. “I’ll read [it] and then I’m inspired afterwards as an afterthought.” After reading about Pythagoras and his theory of the ten numbers, Lewis created a series of ten large paintings shown at Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum. “The Dyad,” or number two, is now part of the museum’s permanent collection. The sacred Hindu texts of the Bhagavad Gita have also inspired works. In 2004, Lewis began working on another text-inspired project: “The 49 Gateless Gate Series,” which can be viewed on the first floor library windows and is still in progress. “It’s an interesting way to work,” she says. “[And] it’s a lot of reading.”

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

16aHopkins AncientUpwelling
Ancient Updwelling” by photographer Mark Hopkins
captures the artist’s emphasis on form and color, transforming the natural world into something ethereal. His nature close-ups as well as images from other series are located throughout Gleason
Library. (Photo by Mark Hopkins)

The koan is a question or statement —not unlike a puzzle—that is used during meditation or posed to a student by a Zen master as a way to test progress toward enlightenment. Of particular interest to Lewis is The Gateless Gate —a collection of 49 koans written by Zen master Mumon Ekai in the 13th century, which she has translated into 47 delicate conceptual art pieces over the years. Made of white French engraving paper that Lewis folds and sews, each seems to float on the window, its appearance changing with light as pinholes and stitches appear and disappear. “These are my favorite pieces,” she says. “It’s just quieting your mind.”

In addition to the paper pieces, the Gleason show features a number of Lewis’s Tibetan Objects. The minimalist pieces, otherwise unnamed, are like much of her later work—white—and designed in the moment, without sketches. “I just go at it and see what happens,” she explains. “It’s always a surprise.” Made of canvas and string, the pieces are folded or twisted, boiled and affixed with plaster, allowing the object to keep its form. In addition to finishing the Gateless Gate series, Lewis has been doing some work on the computer and remains, as always, inspired by art. I love working as an artist,” she says. “I know this is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.” 

Seeing what is already there

As a bachelor in the early 1960s, photographer Mark Hopkins “[fooled] around with cameras,” outfitting his bathroom with processing accoutrements. But as his only bathtub filled with expensive materials he was loath to throw out, he was at a crossroad. “I very quickly figured out that I’m either going to be a photographer or I’m going to bathe,” says Hopkins. A decade later he got serious about his interest in photography, discovering he had an eye for capturing interesting things that often went unseen by others. Thinking that others might also find it interesting became the place to concentrate his photography. His nature close-ups, found throughout Gleason, are an exercise in seeing everyday things in a bold new way: the curve of a wave, fungus in the woods or rocks on a shore. “There were all kinds of things when you really started to look,” says Hopkins, adding that the basics of what he does are form, and color and light.

In the 1980s, his interest in travel photography grew as he began working with the Earthwatch Institute. Hopkins also began accumulating photography equipment to document his trips to far-flung destinations that increasingly weighted him down. A trip to South Africa for a herbivore study called for traveling light, and that meant downsizing to a small digital camera. It was revolutionary. Not only could he do the same work without the cumbersome accessories, but he also realized he could do more to his images with the computer, and without a bathtub full of equipment. “So I really started to get interested in [photography] in 2004,” he says. “At age 72.”

Pay attention

Hopkins’s online gallery now consists of nature close-ups, animals in their natural environment, travel photography, maritime and a few others series, with a number of these pieces part of the show. And after some trial and error, he has also arrived at an artist statement that he feels best captures his role as an artist, settling on four lines from the poem Sometimes by Mary Oliver: “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” “I just hope it opens people’s eyes to some of the stuff that’s all around them,” he says of his work.

Hopkins prints and frames his own long format images, and has had his work shown at galleries and museums throughout New England and beyond, and has won a number of awards. To see more of his photographs, visit his website at http://markhopkinsphotoart.com

The free afternoon reception will be held on Saturday, April 29 from 2-4 p.m. The show runs until June 10.   ∆