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A Clear Reflection: Chisholm At Endicott

Garden Street, "Topsfield", oil.


REVIEW
JAMES CHISHOLM: REFLECTIONS: OCEAN WAVES, INLAND STREAMS
CAROL GRILLO GALLERY
ENDICOTT COLLEGE
WALTER J. MANNINEN CENTER FOR THE ARTS
376 HALE STREET
BEVERLY, MASSACHUSETTS
THROUGH FEBRUARY 8

by James Foritano

Driving homeward from Endicott College’s North Shore campus toward Boston, keeping time with the traffic’s imperative to move this car — this metal carapace — along, or risk being moved rudely by a sudden bump from behind or the side, both unpleasant, I thought of the slow time I’d experienced on assignment in the Walter J. Manninen Art Center’s Carol Grillo Gallery.

A handful of oil paintings explores with impressionist punctiliousness the way light flickers and gilds, sluices or merely dampens at edges the woods and fields along the banks of the Ipswich River — depending on the year, the season, the time of day.

“Handful” is a good word for the five generously sized pieces — like overlarge windows — of this riverine drama; “punctilious” is perhaps not so good. The action of light on leaves and wood and river water is documented with smallest strokes of the hand and wrist, as if respecting every minute shift in hue or translucence.

The mood is one of absorption, on tip-toes, within such blooming, bearing variety that the painter’s hand and eye must be ever ready to be moved, in whatever weather and in whatever direction; whereas “punctilious” suggests an industry that includes the most details possible before five o’clock closing time — an industry whose motive is expedience but not awe.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, pithily, “You can’t step into the same river twice.” This is such a neatly phrased paradox of sameness within difference that we remember Heraclitus as if he spoke this eternal truth yesterday.

And yet, though we can see and hear Heraclitus speaking, the mood from which he spoke remains as much a mystery as his language to most non-classics majors. Was he bothered by this insight, or did he take it as a welcome invitation to adventure?

There’s no question where painter James Chisholm stands on the matter. And that’s outdoors, behind his sturdy French easel — more of a partner, the way he speaks of it, than an insensate tool.

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