Thursday, November 06, 2014

Powers Gallery, Acton, Ma

We’ve been going to this gallery for some ten years, I guess. It started as a time filler while Erin took classes nearby. Now we make a point.

A day off for both Beth and me, and a rainy one, so we made a visit today. A store front in one of Acton’s many exciting strip malls formerly housed the gallery. Some years back the gallery moved to an old farmhouse across from yet another gurgling Acton strip mall. Obviously the art is what counts, but the ambiance of the old house adds something to the experience.

The gallery favours largely representational work, a good deal of which could be called nature studies. Fine with me. When I first started taking notice of art as a teenager, the so-called Hudson River School drew me in. I’m not saying anyone at the gallery belongs to that school, just that many try to capture the natural surroundings. Not surprisingly, several show local scenes.

Both Beth and I love the work of Teri Malo, of which the gallery offers numerous selections. We own several of her small seascape studies, delicate, moody exercises. Teri’s blue period. She has quite a few large canvases of waves breaking in lavish form that are quite exultant.

More recently, Teri has turned to pond and forest scenes, shifting her palette into the greens, as well as autumnal oranges. One work is especially impressionistic: orange leaves in the water, really stunning. First look might reveal a cacophony of orange and green but then you see the leaves, the water’s sheen, the light reflected. It is a swarming gust of a fall moment by a New England pond.

Another Malo painting, called “Homage”, shows a rock—more accurately boulder—formation at the edge of a pond. Good New England rock left there by some galloping glacier as seen from a viewpoint on the water of the pond (or perhaps on the other shore). Green trees in the background reflect in the water in the foreground. The rocks show granite grace and I could look at this painting for hours.

Quite a few still lifes can be seen at the gallery, most notably (for me, at least), those of Marshall Henrichs. I learned about still life in elementary school, back when they also asked me to do what I understood to be south portraits. Okay, I was nine years old and I didn’t get it, bunch of bottles and fruit. I think I’ve got the concept now.

In fact, I know I have. The sense of form, of light, and even of meditative time all conjunct in these tableaux of ordinary objects. My special friend among Henrichs’ work is called “Glass Notes”. It shows a display of eleven bottles, vases, and pitchers—including, I think, a distinctive Hendrich’s gin bottle—on a table with a white tablecloth. Gathering the sensibility of the light, the forms, and just the music of seeing something that is there just to be there: it is a wonderfully enthralling experience. That’s why the dalliance intrigues us, looking at art. We see an image found in a moment of no distraction, for the artist and then for us.

That’s not the same as photographing. Malo’s “Homage”, hangs above an old fireplace visible from the entrance. It carries a luminous photographic nature, but it is not merely a representation or copy. It allows the painted colour to halt the trammeling blindness of our daily eye. Thus too Henrichs’ still lifes. That’s just the reason to look.

Another artist whose work I enjoy seeing is Matt Brown. He does Japanese wood prints, like I know what that specifically means. I can say this much: firmly delineated places of colour matched with an utter delicacy of form and touch. Many of his prints bespeak New Hampshire’s nest of mountains, even including Franconia Notch, just outside of which occurred my halcyon school daze. These are all small prints, less than a foot, mostly, in any dimension, but endless in their depth. Really taken by these.

I could go on, but I didn’t take notes, that’s too distracting. If you don’t think my words work, you can check out the gallery’s website. Go to the website ( and click on the Artists link. A lot more than I can give word to. It was a good day of looking.

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