Three artists are showing in the Kingston Gallery’s three gallery spaces during the cold month of February. Each brings back from a life of art well-ripened visions like fine wines or whatever analogy you prefer to represent experience thoroughly tasted and crafted.
From a residency at the Hambidge Center in North Georgia about a decade ago, photographer Hilary Tolan has brought back a Rhododendron forest, lush with natural vigor, marinated in the slow juices of artistic contemplation for a mid-winter solo exhibition titled “Emerge.”
Let’s start at the beginning. On repeated days, Tolan packed a snack and headed into the depths of a forest of towering Rhododendrons, tall and lush as only Georgia sunshine and soil can produce.
Sometimes, Tolan caught molten pools of sunlight burning in dark depths of leaf and branch; at other times, in even darker places, the scene was partially illuminated with a brilliant flash. In both places, the viewer is deep in the scene looking out at a rare exuberance dwarfing our prim seasonal gardens here in New England. But looking, even on this level of spectacle, just wasn’t enough. After repeated viewings in and out of carefully filed studio drawers, Tolan one day reached for an “incredibly sharp” X-ACTO knife and began an operation of creative destruction.
Miming with her keen blade, the dance of many Rhododendron branches towards the light, or, to use Tolan’s word, “conversing” with their slow multiple journeys skyward, she cut out with the exactness of a specialized knife blade and an artist’s grasp of rhythm just one bark-brown branch here and there as if to reveal, highlighted with a white background, the very nerves of white-hot motion. The label “growth” for this phenomenon seems pallid in comparison to the journey revealed through art, a sight and feeling to pull us through the glooms of winter, and beyond.
In addition to three groupings of photographs sorted according to size and variety, there are also graphite drawings of common weeds on Mylar. These exacting sketches belie the label “common” attached to weeds by their delicacy and respect for the individuality of a field that fell luckily into Tolan’s path as she wended her way from Rhododendron forest to her residency at the Hambidge Center while stopping and looking.
Accompany the artist on a journey as fresh as yesterday.
Elif Soyer will occupy the Project Space in the Kingston Gallery for the month of February. Soyer’s project will consist of about 50 wood-backed tiles of 10 inches by 10 inches.