Current Visions At South Shore Art
by Don Wilkinson
For 127 years, the National Association of Women Artists has worked relentlessly to foster public awareness and interest in the work of female visual artists. Sponsored by the organization’s Massachusetts chapter and curated by painter Jennifer Jean Costello, “Current Visions: Tradition Meets Innovation,” on display at the South Shore Art Center until April 3, does much to draw in viewers with an exhibition that lives up to the title. Tradition, in the form of art history, mentorship and influence, informs the innovation that the 10 artists clearly command.
Costello herself exhibits three works (as does each of the participants) and the common theme is nature. Her “Yellow Trees” feature thin brown branches and yet thinner twigs reaching upward, dissecting a field of yellows that range from acidic lemon to an earthy ochre. A foreground of periwinkle and purpleleaning blues solidly anchor a composition that borders on the ephemeral. Another work by Costello is “Tree Lights,” a large (more than six feet across) triptych that gives her ample opportunity to explore a subdued pallette of cool colors. A sliver of peach tone adds necessary visual warmth.
The three oils by Kim Alemian revolve around traditional still lifes, but these are not your grandmother’s still lifes. Certainly there are all the common trappings and expectations of the tabletop still life — vases of flowers, fruit, cups and pitchers — but it is her clever hardening of the untouchable that elevates her work. In “Lightshaft with Fruit Bowl,” there is a creamy diagonal illumination that traverses a porch table, on which apples, pears and citrus fruit sit. That shaft of light runs lovingly milky, there is a glowing green shimmer. And Alemian, in this painting and her others, turns light, shadow and reflection into convincing solid objects while softening what we know to be hard-edged (like the lip of a cup or the end of the table) into something intangible. She plays a game of visual push-and-pull.