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Art Notes: Landscapes Between Real and Imagined

  • Patrick Dunfey, of Hanover, is showing his Large Paintings on Paper at the White River Gallery in South Royalton, Vt., through September 30, 2017. Dunfey is the head of exhibitions design and planning at the Hood Museum of Art. Photographed in South Royalton, Vt., Tuesday, August 22, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Patrick Dunfey, of Hanover, is showing his Large Paintings on Paper at the White River Gallery in South Royalton, Vt., through September 30. Photographed in South Royalton, Vt., Tuesday, August 22, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • "Camp," a painting by Patrick Dunfey, is among the works on view at White River Gallery in South Royalton.

  • "Breach" is among the works on view in "Patrick Dunfey: Large Paintings on Paper" at White River Gallery in South Royalton.

  • "October Processional," an oil painting on paper by Pomfret artist Peter Brooke, is on view at BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt., as part of "Land, Sea and Sky," an exhibition of Brooke's work.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, August 24, 2017

To what degree are landscapes realistic, and to what degree are they imagined? Even when a landscape seems an accurate depiction, should we take it as a literal truth? After all, landscape painters have always tinkered freely with reality.

In the Italian and Northern Renaissances, painters frequently combined mythical or religious motifs with rustic landscapes that were partly fanciful and idealized, and partly rooted in the mundane realism of agricultural life.

And such painters as Turner and, later, Monet blew up every academician’s idea of what constituted acceptable landscape painting by atomizing light on canvas in ways that had never been seen before.

Despite the hold of abstraction on contemporary painting, landscape painting persists. It’s what surrounds us, whether rural or urban; it’s our bedrock. Little wonder that painters return to it over and over.

Two current and notable exhibitions in the White River Valley, “Patrick Dunfey: Large Works on Paper” at White River Gallery in South Royalton, and “Land, Sea and Sky,” paintings by Peter Brooke at BigTown Gallery in Rochester, pose trenchant questions about how to think about landscape, and offer some answers.

Last summer, Patrick Dunfey, head of exhibitions design and planning at the Hood Museum of Art, exhibited some of his earlier work in his studio in the TipTop Building in White River Junction.

Since then both the scale and feel of his paintings have opened up, Dunfey said in an interview in South Royalton.

The works he showed at his studio were compact and contained, measuring, give or take, anywhere from 15 inches in height to 1 to 2 feet across.

By contrast, of the five paintings in South Royalton, four measure 60 by 85 inches; the fifth is 60 by 60 inches.

It’s not only in size that the work seem to have burst through the confines of the earlier paintings.

The composition and colors are bold and big, with the look of graphic novel panels. They invite you in. Yet, there’s a stillness and subtle menace in the scenes, as if something, or someone, we might not wish to encounter is waiting behind a door or floating just below the water’s surface. That tension keeps the viewer alert and engaged.

“I’m just having the best time,” Dunfey said in an interview at White River Gallery. “I don’t want to do anything that feels ambivalent or half-hearted. When I’m painting I’m wanting it to be just true. I’m not overly contextualizing to the point of making cautious moves. I’m trying it out and for the most part things are really working.”

Dunfey catches our attention in other ways, by flattening perspective and using colors that seem just a hue off.

Something about the way the objects are seen in relation to one another is a hair off-kilter, too; also as Dunfey intended. They’re landscapes, but landscapes as a “series of indicators. You read this form as a tree, log, stone, or riverbank,” Dunfey said.

Dunfey, who grew up in Manchester and earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, is uninterested in making landscapes that hew to a pictorial reality, or what he calls painting a “little mountain and a little person on a road.”

Dunfey paints in his spare time, such as it is. Not only has he been working along with other staff at the Hood to install seven commissioned sound installations as part of the museum’s first exhibition devoted to sound, opening Sept. 15 at the Hood Downtown, he is also part of the staff effort to keep the expansion of the Hood Museum on track for the opening in January 2019.

The paintings, of tempera and pigmented gesso, are done on heavy watercolor paper made in England. Dunfey has left them unframed, both because he appreciates the tactile quality of the paper and because he doesn’t want to imply that he views the works as “finished.”

Dunfey plans to continue in this current vein. “To do a small painting now would feel like hunkering down, closing in, looking inward,” he said. “The immediacy allows me to become more celebratory.”

Peter W. Brooke, of Pomfret, has contributed 11 works in “Land, Sea and Sky.”

Brooke, who has gallery representation in Boston, Philadelphia and at BigTown, paints stunning landscapes that, at first glance, look like photographs of mountains seen through fog and cloud, seascapes shimmering in mist or Vermont pastures.

It’s an optical illusion: they’re oil on paper. But, it struck me that if he had actually taken photographs of the same scenes, they wouldn’t have had the same life. The texture and translucency of the paint give the landscapes a sheen and imaginative depth that photography couldn’t quite achieve.

His sea- and mountainscapes, in particular, straddle a blurred line between photography and paint, dreams and reality, distance and proximity, refuge and isolation

Brooke conjures mood and emotion with uncanny delicacy. I looked at his paintings at length, and wondered at their meticulousness.

“Patrick Dunfey: Large Works on Paper” is at the White River Gallery at BALE through Sept. 30. As part of First Friday in White River Junction, Dunfey will hold an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 6 at Studio 225 in the Tip Top Building.

“Land, Sea and Sky,” paintings by Peter Brooke, continues at BigTown Gallery in Rochester through Sept. 10. More of Brooke’s paintings, including works on panel, are also on view at BigTown’s outpost in the Champlain Valley, at 245 Main St., Vergennes, Vt. 802-349-0979.

Also on view at BigTown in Rochester are prints and sculpture by the late Hugh Townley, and “Commune,” an exhibition of photographs of buildings by Boston- and Vermont-based photographer Erik Baier. Through Sept. 9.

Openings and Receptions

The Library Arts Center in Newport has just opened its annual juried regional exhibition. The exhibition continues through Sept. 29.

Of Note

Last chance to buy tickets for Main Street Museum’s 25th anniversary benefit concert at the Barrette Center for the Arts, featuring New York composers and musicians Nico Muhly and Nadia Sirota. Tickets for the benefit range from $45 to $65 and are available through the museum’s website, mainstreetmuseum.org. All proceeds benefit the museum.

Ongoing

Artists from AVA Gallery and Art Center show work at Pompanoosuc Mills showrooms in East Thetford. Exhibit includes work by Joe Carton, Penny Koburger, Judy Laliberte, Elizabeth Mayor, Rosamond Orford, and Sue Schiller, through Sept. 23.

Aidron Duckworth Art Museum, Meriden. “Pride of Plainfield,” a community exhibition celebrating the town’s agricultural richness through photographs, articles and audio, is up through Oct. 29. Featured businesses include Edgewater Farm, Garfield’s Smokehouse, Hall Apiaries, McNamara Dairy, Noda Farm, Riverview Farm and Taylor Brothers Farm. “Bartelli Murals Remembered,” a 1990 mural by Aidron Duckworth, runs through Sept. 10. The sculpture of Claremont artist Ernest Montenegro is on view through Oct. 29.

Center for the Arts, Lake Sunapee. Three exhibitions are up in the New London area. Photographs by New London resident Larry Harper are on view in the exhibition “Kearsarge and Beyond” at the Lake Sunapee Bank in New London. Enfield artist Amy Fortier exhibits “Faux-Zaics” in the micro-gallery at Whipple Hall. Maria Blanck, a part-time resident of New London, and Springfield, N.H. artist Yvonne Shukovsky show their work in the exhibition “Potpourri” in the lobby of the New London Inn. Through Oct. 28.

Chandler Gallery, Randolph. “Scale: Models to Monuments” explores the history and impact of public art through sculpture and photography. Randolph sculptor Jim Sardonis curated the exhibit. On view through Sept. 2.

Chelsea Public Library. “Moving Paint, Moving Bodies,” an exhibit by the longtime Chelsea dance artist Hannah Dennison, highlights the relationship between Dennison’s dance career and her paintings. Through August.

Cider Hill Art Gallery, Windsor. The gallery and garden center exhibits sculpture, painting and installations by Steven Proctor, Herb Ferris, Gary Haven Smith, the Mythmakers and Gary Milek.

Converse Free Library, Lyme. Members of the artists’ group Odanaksis show their work in the exhibition “Summer Time in Lyme.” Through Sept. 30.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon. The hospital’s summer art exhibitions include the work of seven New England artists: Mark Bolton, Carol Keiser, Alison Palizzolo, Richard Perry, Sheryl Trainor and Robin Weisburger. It also features masks created by patients in the psychiatric unit as part of the project “The Faces of Mental Illness and Healing.” Through September.

Hall Art Foundation, Reading, Vt. There are three shows currently on view: “Hope and Hazard: A Comedy of Eros,” a show of more than 80 paintings on the subject of romantic and sexual love; “Ready. Fire! Aim,” a collaboration between the foundation and Burlington City Arts; and a solo show by David Shrigley. Through Nov. 26.

Hood Downtown, Hanover. “The Everyday Fantastic,” work by Missouri photographer Julie Blackmon, ends Sunday.

Howe Library, Hanover. On display in Ledyard Gallery is an exhibition of photographs by Max Fehr, of Berlin, Vt. Each photo is paired with one of Fehr’s poems. The show runs through Oct. 4.

Kilton Public Library, West Lebanon. Susan Pearson, a pastel artist from Canaan, exhibits her work during regular library hours through Sept. 30.

Norman Williams Public Library, Woodstock. An exhibit featuring diverse work from the craft group Women of Wonder (WOW) is on view through Sept. 30.

Norwich Public Library. An exhibition of work by Claremont artists (and husband and wife) Sue Lawrence and Andrew Williams titled “Together, Captured Moments in Realism” closes Saturday.

Osher at Dartmouth, Hanover. “The Outsiders,” a show of work by Anne Hartmann, Judith Pettingell and Ann Semprebon, ends today.

Royalton Memorial Library, South Royalton. Lindsey Cole, a seventh-generation Vermonter and South Royalton native with a master’s degree in environmental law from Vermont Law School, shows paintings, drawings and photographs through Sept. 29.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish. Nancy Azara’s exhibition, “Passage of the Ghost Ship: Trees and Vines,” is up at the Picture Gallery through Sept. 10.

Scavenger Gallery, White River Junction. For the month of August, Scavenger Gallery takes up residence in Hartland at the blacksmith’s shop and studio at 11 Brownsville Road, across from Skunk Hollow Tavern. Hopkins will show her collection of cast animal and bird skulls provided to her by the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences in Quechee.

Tunbridge Public Library. The group show “Connecting Fibers” features fiber art by Susan Cain, Judy Cayer, Louise Clark, Carrie Cooker, Christina Duffy, Betty LaWhite, Karyn Lord, Caitlyn Macglaflin, Katrina Mojzesz, Fern Strong and Belinda Whipple Worth. Ends Saturday.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, White River Junction. Recent work by Nori Pepe is on view through September. A reception is planned for Sept. 1, 6 to 8 p.m.

Zollikofer Gallery, White River Junction. “Up Close in White River Junction,” a tribute by members of the White River Junction branch of the Vermont Watercolor Society to the wealth of historic architecture in town, is up through August.

Correction

The 2017 Juried Summer Exhibition at the AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon ended on Wednesday, Aug. 23. An earlier version of this story included an incorrect closing date.