Behind the Scenes: Friends and artists

From the March 14, 2013 edition

Every few months the painters at Lindsay Gallery’s new show, “Four Ways of Looking,” meet at one of their studios to discuss art, the environment and whatever else is on their life agendas. Laura Bidwa, Sarah Fairchild, Linda Gall and Laura Sanders have done this for years, but they had never shown art together exclusively in one show. Until now.

“We all are concerned with the environment,” said Gall, the show’s curator. “But we all express it in very different ways.”

That common thread in the painters’ work lit Gall’s eco-savvy light bulb to have the show. The fact that she knew the artists so well, having seen and discussed their work intimately for years, made selecting the eight pieces in “Four Ways of Looking” relatively easy.

The show is purposely sparse.

“These pieces are so layered and contemplative,” Gall said. “You have to spend time communing with each of them.”

Named in allusion to a Wallace Stevens poem called “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” and organized as if the paintings were stanzas of a poem, the exhibit is composed of four larger pieces, one per artist, proportionately hung throughout the front of the gallery. In the back of the space are four smaller pieces (which range in size from 5-by-6 inches to 12-by-15 inches) that reference the subjects of the larger paintings.

Sanders’ textured and luminescent oil on canvas and wood paintings employ realism to show how plastic, despite its potential wastefulness, can be beautiful and alluring.

Meanwhile Bidwa’s acrylic offerings are more abstract; she spends time meditating with a tree, taking pictures of all its angles, and then re-creates its feeling in her paintings in a process of applying, removing and reapplying paint. It feels like an artist’s way of atrophying a “tree” the way seasons do in real time.

Fairchild flocks and paints so-close-up-you-can-practically-taste-them portraits of plants with unexpectedly bright colors, a celebration of domesticated nature through an artist’s lens. And Gall’s paintings on wood reference a parallel dream world where discarded and forgotten antique figurines mingle among man-made structures nearing extinction.

The exhibit is worth a contemplative walk-through. “Four Ways of Looking” is certainly cohesive but the voices are individual enough that it’ll be easy to find the friend you like best.