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Gail Sauter, Just Hanging Out, oil on linen.

By James Foritano

Boston, MA – I found myself at the opening reception for the Copley Society of Art’s 2017 Winter Members Show, “Shaken and Stirred,” strangely resonating with its title. I seemed to have left my wife back at the Park Street Red Line station under a misunderstanding too complicated to explain, so I suffered some suspense while waiting for her to reappear.

The incident ended well, but I still wonder if the muse of art had a hand in preparing me with empathy for those scenes of art which capture the fragile relationship we humans have with each other and our enfolding environment.

“Just Hanging Out,” a warm and vividly colored oil painting by Gail Sauter, struck notes of intimacy as a few friends bent their elbows together at a local bar while the white-shirted bartender, close enough for conversation, put sparkle in just washed glasses.

As in all art, it was both a suitable subject plus an appropriate technique which engaged. I had to bend close to these quiet revelers to complete the sketchy lines of paint which delineated their attentive though relaxed presences. Relaxing with friends is always a continuity of private thoughts with sudden gleams of shared understanding — too fugitive, perhaps, to put into any better words than, “I’ll drink to that!”

(For more on “Shaken and Stirred,” read Lisa Mikulski’s review in our March/April 2017 Eleventh Anniversary Issue).

In the downstairs “Shake It Up” Small Works Show, “The Three Friends,” Laureen Hylka’s oil painting by that title, turned out, on closer inspection, to be three cows browsing a warmly colored hillside bristling with bovine nourishment. This drama pulled me, once again, nose-close to distinguish the protagonists from their hearty enjoyment of a hilly environment that to a cow is meat and drink.

The third cow emerged only as a puzzle of black and white pattern, but once verified, she stood staunchly on four legs. How often do we trust our instincts to haul a wise guess into verity, a lost friend back from the brink? Did I just hear a cow moo in agreement?

Ginny Zanger’s portrait of comradeship, “Beach Trio,” is shaken and stirred into life not with the nourishment of meat or drink, but of boundaries. Sandwiched between a louring sky and a grey-blue sea, three friends, mere daubs of amity, forge a path forward between these immense boundaries in a pattern at once engagingly abstract and full of narrative.

We peer eagerly for water and congenial atmospheres on distant planets. Are Zanger’s three tiny but animated figures listening in to our own boundaries of sky and sea and stirred perhaps to see and speak of them with new-found respect?

There are less peopled examples of the theme so vividly celebrated in two linked exhibitions upstairs and downstairs at the Copley Society — I’m thinking here specifically of Timothy Neill’s “Porcelain,” a hymn to a quiet corner of home enlivened only by a vase of painted scenes and a bit of greenery.

But my forlorn state drew me to cast inquiring stares at scenes of people, beings who’d found each other, and to wonder if, just around the corner in Copley Square, my own partner was wending her way towards us.

(“Shaken and Stirred: The Copley Society’s 2017 Winter Members Show” and Co|So Artists: Small Works: Shake It Up” continue through April 6 at the Copley Society of Art, 158 Newbury St., Boston, Mass. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon-5 p.m. For more information, call (617) 536-5049.)