By Lindsey Davis
Boston, MA – In 2012 more than 100 artists applied to become members of the Copley Society of Art, whose choice location on Newbury Street offers exposure to the talented artists with developed individual styles we might not have seen yet. Thirty artists were selected from those 300 applications, and one work from each is now represented in the Copley Society’s New Members’ Show that opened last Saturday, sprinkling their Upper Gallery in both large and small-scale selections, each individually characterized by its own distinct creator.
The work represented here comes from the hands of artists whose ages nearly span a half-century and although the subject matter is comparable, the style of each landscape or portrait finds an individuality that springs from a sense of realism. All of the still-lifes present an ordinary collection of tools or jars but saturated with thick colors and molded by bright reflections into a reality too beautiful to exist outside a canvas.
Altogether, the works show how vastly different two interpretations of the same object can be. The sailboat in James Magner’s “Exploring” rests quietly in a lake surrounded by still, vertical nature. Nearby, Russ Kramer’s “Madeleine: Defender of America’s Cup, 1876” shows a group of sailboats rushed forward by the wind — a violently tossing American flag brings special poignancy to the ever-relevant name of the boat cast in shadow: “Sandy Hook.”
Alone on the back wall sits Mathew Gillis Hall’s large-scale oil painting, “Wesley Thompson” — a close-up of a young boy’s faces, whose eyes both greet and arrest you as you enter the gallery space. There’s an intensity, almost an unrest behind his shiny blue eyes as one eyebrow curves down over the nose to form an expression that lies somewhere between impatience and curiosity. His hair comes down in thick sharp strokes over his forehead, a style echoed in his cheeks and nose — underlying angular lines peeking through the boy’s skin to make his soft innocent face appear sharper and more severe than it ever could have otherwise.
When I spoke to her prior to the show’s opening Suzan Redgate, the gallery’s executive director, was proud of the Society’s open application system for artists, which judges each solely on the work they create instead of on their formal training or connections. This kind of openness allowed for a New Members’ Show filled with both individualized innovation and technical precision.
(The Copley Society of Arts’ New Members Show 2013 continues through Thursday, February 7. The gallery is located at 158 Newbury Street, Boston; it’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. & Sunday from noon-5 p.m. For more information, call (617) 536-5049.)