LOUIS RISOLI: FROM WISH TO DREAM TO HOPE
PETER VANDERWARKER: THE LANGUAGE OF LANDSCAPE
March 10 – April 1, 2023 at Gallery NAGA
March begins with what may seem an unlikely pairing of two artists working in opposing mediums: Louis Risoli a painting practice in the studio in response to landscapes experienced over time and Peter Vanderwarker a photograph of a given moment in time. Look a little closer and you see how each artist approaches their subject matter in a similar way.
Louis Risoli: From Wish to Dream to Hope and Peter Vanderwarker: The Language of Landscape are both on exhibition from March 10 through April 1. A reception for the artists and the public will be held at the gallery on Friday, March 10 from 5 to 7 pm. A walk-through with both artists will be held at the gallery on Saturday, March 25 at 2 pm. Reservations are not required.
Risoli began his career painting large abstract forms on shaped canvases. In the last decade, he has abandoned the shaped canvases in exchange for rectangular surfaces onto which he paints landscapes overlayed with swirling and twirling lines. The landscapes, often based on the woods near his home in suburban Boston, become intersected with floating shapes but continue to read as a whole. In a statement for the exhibition, Risoli writes about the experience of bringing the landscape into the studio.
Working on a stained canvas cut through with swirled lines running from top to bottom, I paint a small section, 3 or so inches square, bringing it to finished paint. Then, working more or less left to right, bottom to top, I paint the next section and then the next. With the exception of minor adjustments, when all sections have been filled, the painting is done. In effect, I am mimicking how we see – in small details, which in our brain may coalesce into a big picture. Each section I paint has the immediacy of being itself, as well as being ultimately part of a bigger painting.
The swirls both interrupt and seemingly interact with the painted image. I am frequently asked about their meaning and offered possible explanations. Rising energy? The spirit of the place? A formal device to force the viewer to engage with what is beyond? Yikes, I don’t know. I’m just the painter.
Wishing and dreaming and hoping and making it up as I go along, coupled with a curiosity to see what will come of it all, seems to be my impetus for making a painting. Sunlight and shadow and verticals and pine needles and sky are the working tools. Connection is the goal.
Peter Vanderwarker has made a career of photographing for clients’ architectural structures while at the same time maintaining an increasingly complex trove of personal, fine art photography.
This current exhibition is a careful selection of eight photographs exploring natural and unnatural formations in the landscape. Whether Vanderwarker shoots a close-up of rockweed floating above a puzzle of rocks in the shallow Maine waters or an aerial shot of erosion resistant rock in Utah, he bewilders the viewer by shifts in scale and careful cropping. One is not sure what they are looking at. Is the subject matter larger than Vanderwarker himself and therefore shot aerially or is it so miniscule that he is shooting in macro?
Other photographs explore the human interference on the landscape. Wellfleet, Massachusetts portrays a series of manmade clam and oyster beds in preparation for harvesting. The harvest blocks of oranges, blues, and magentas stand proud of the tonal gray of the sand incongruous with everything around them.
Vanderwarker chooses locations where he finds new and interesting subjects as well as places other artists have worked. Lately, he’s been admiring the landscape paintings of Thomas Cole, who, in Vanderwarker’s words give us, “redemption, salvation, rebirth, sustainability, and forgiveness.” Crawford Notch, New Hampshire, a portrait of two mountain peaks shrouded in darkness as the sun rises from behind, was taken after Vanderwarker discovered a painting by Cole of the same location.
Thomas Cole painted this view of Crawford Notch in 1828. As an artist, Cole wanted Americans to realized that their new world was more than real estate to be exploited—it was a source of spiritual salvation. In the words of historian Thomas Hughes, “If the American landscape was to be a church, then the landscape artists were its clergy.”
One morning, on a trip to Crawford Notch, I got up before dawn to see what kind of day it would be. I was treated to a sky I had never seen before – no clouds, just slate gray merging to a soft peach glow of a dawn yet to come. There was just enough light to see Echo Lake and the antique railway station that still serves the Notch. It is hard to go to places like this and not be moved.
Images of both artists’ work can be found at gallerynaga.com.