John Vander’s new show at Gold/Smith Gallery, “The Summer Paintings,” is vivid, bold, colorful and distinctly Vander. This is a collection of small paintings of Maine and Italia memories, or of what he calls the “left shoulder experience.”
“It’s a fundamental experience that is extrememly hard to communicate,” said Vander. “It’s some strange conjunction of quantity of light, movement, scent, atmosphere that happens and you get a glimpse of something. And in a second, or fraction of a second … it’s gone. They are more like memory images; you are shot back into a very special place, yet it is so momentary that when you turn your head back, you ask yourself ‘Was that even real?’”
When he paints, that’s the place he’s looking for.
All of the paintings in the show are on high quality, heavyweight cotton business stationery. He’s been using this as canvas for quite a while now. The work is easily stored in a box or binder. Vander will work on something and put it away for three weeks or three months before looking at it again. And the paper’s standard size makes it easy to make copies of a work in progress to explore various ideas related to color and design. Some areas of a version can also be used for collage pieces.
Vander uses a variety of media in his work – oils, acrylics, watercolor, oil pastels, colored pencils and markers and, from time to time, a Swiss brand, water resistant wax crayon.
The work in this show was selected by Vander and his wife, Karen Swartsberg, with a summer theme in mind.
A few of the paintings that caught my eye, and engaged my imagination, included the light and shadow in the piece with the bold black structure-like shapes at the top and the swath of pink on black on the left, the earthier colors on the right with what appeared to me to be frenetic energy rising up … or, no, maybe not frenetic at all … perhaps the mist of a memory?
A giraffe-like skin form on the left of another painting had me recalling the binding of the Little Golden Books of childhood with the drawn shapes of animals. But what really engaged me was the brushwork, the black shapes floating on the canvas … this one was both fanciful and intriguing.
“Wire Gate Italia” is one of the mixed media works in this show. The pale green and turquoise – colors of summer, without a doubt – and a perfect background for the black wire gate and the ornamental shape atop it that appears to be moving into the past, illustrated by the second, and faint third shape while, in the distance, the faint black lines are of a future beginning to take shape. I have yet to visit Italy, but I have always had the feeling that it is one of the places on Earth where the scenic beauty, scents and centuries old structures, give one the feeling that they are living in the past, present and future – the future because one would be forever changed from having been there.
Don’t miss John Vander’s exhibition, “The Summer Paintings,” running through Aug. 17. Summer is the perfect time to set your imagination free ...
Gold/Smith Gallery, 8 McKown St. in Boothbay Harbor. The gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call the gallery at 633-6252 or visit www.goldsmithgallery.net