Neal Hughes and Crista Pisano: Paintings Large or Small
For the second year in a row, Sylvan Gallery is pleased to offer an exhibition of the extraordinary oil paintings of Neal Hughes and Crista Pisano, two renowned landscape artists recognized for their skill at capturing the essence of their subject.
The exhibit opens on Monday, Aug. 1. The reception to meet the artists is on Thursday, Aug. 25 from 5 to 8 p,m., coinciding with the evening of the Wiscasset Art Walk.
Hughes’ and Pisano’s ability to interpret nature and manifest what moves them about a scene have earned them many accolades over their painting careers, and both have been juried into many of the most prestigious plein air art competitions in the country. The most notable difference about their work is that Hughes’ paintings may range from 8” x 10” to 30” x 30” or larger, and Pisano is much more likely to work on almost miniature-in-size panels, some as small as 4” x 4” with longer panoramic views reaching to 2.5” x 12” for example.
Coastal subjects and sailing craft inspire much of Neal Hughes’ work in the exhibition, although he is at home painting a wide variety of subject matter including historic New England architecture, fields, and woodland streams. “Sails Down, Camden,” at 8” x 10”, has a Sargent-esque feel to it. Hughes creates a deft portrait of a sailboat with loose, painterly, and energetic brushwork, and one can imagine feeling the wind and water and witnessing the changing light. It is lushly painted and exudes the skill of a confident hand with many quick notes of color that seem to be perfectly placed.
The overall feeling of the plein air piece is of vitality and excitement. “End of Day Rockland,” measuring 24” x 36”, is a marine painting of two schooners, Heritage and American Eagle, tied up at a dock in Rockland's Harbor. Hughes captures fleeting moments of light as the last rays of sun glance off the hull of the foremost schooner. Rosy highlights on violet clouds still linger and the blue jewel-like tones of the distant water is dotted with water craft. Discarded old planks of wood in the foreground create visual interest and convey the working nature of the harbor. This is a painting that Hughes created back in the studio using reference material from a painting trip to Rockland last year and showcases his knowledge and love of maritime subjects.
“Parker House,” at 30” x 30”, is a magnificent painting of a white rural farmhouse. Hughes uses both brush and palette knife work to capture the color, texture, and weathered look of the old farmhouse. Silvery blue and violet tones are used throughout the painting, creating a beautiful color harmony, while also contrasting with the sunlit white clapboards and rich greens of grasses and foliage. Overgrown bushes block the light from entering the ground floor windows, but curtains still hang in the front entry door’s window. A dory set up on sawhorses sits nearby, indicating that the house, while neglected, hasn’t been abandoned. Hughes doesn’t just create a beautifully rendered painting of an old farmhouse, but captures the intrinsic quality of the scene and leaves the viewer wanting to know more.
Where some artists use small paintings to create quick impressions of a scene and to possibly refer back to them to plan larger compositions in the studio, Crista Pisano’s small paintings are final works of art and visually have the impact and convey as much information as one might find in a larger painting. Maine coastal views provide the inspiration for many of her paintings in the exhibition. Ocean Point in East Boothbay has the long distant view that is a favorite of Pisano’s to paint. “I am naturally drawn to subject matter as far as the eye can see, and I particularly enjoy observing and painting the calm of where the sky meets the water vs. the chaos of the rocky Maine coast,” she said. In her painting “Ocean Point Long View” at 2.75” x 12.5”, Pisano captures the rocks in earth tones of ochre, grey, and russet, and her short jots of color are effective for massing and yet individualizing their shapes. The subtle tones of the sky transition from pale alizarin pinks to warmer yellow-green hues and the deep blue of the water is like a glass reflecting the sky straight overhead and out of view. A few sparse trees above the rock line on the left side of the panel capture our attention for their distinctive shapes and one realizes that they have withstood the elements of wind and rain and have been shaped by the harsher conditions of the environment.
Pisano invests her small paintings with feeling and life and we can see what excites her about her subject. Mountain Pines at 4.125” x 4.625” would appear to be a simple painting of sky, trees, a mountain, and a ground plane, but it’s what Pisano brings to the scene that makes it magical. Her major grouping of pines is set off against the atmospheric blue of the mountain and Crista allows that “I can never pass up painting a dark pine against an atmospheric blue. It really makes an allowance to showcase the character and individuality of the trees.”
While in Maine, Pisano always spends a lot of time at Pemaquid Point and finds the quintessential Maine seascape and rock patterns mesmerizing. “Pemaquid Patterns” at 5.25” x 3.25”, is a vertical painting where the rocks predominate, but Pisano’s handling of the sky with the swiftly moving clouds captures our attention, and the viewer can imagine standing there with her being whipped by the wind.
The exhibition continues through Sept. 4. In conjunction, the gallery will also be displaying work from its regular roster of contemporary fine artists: Peter Layne Arguimbau, Joann Ballinger, Al Barker, Paul Batch, Angelo Franco Jr., Susannah Haney, Heather Gibson-Lusk, Stan Moeller, Robert Noreika, Ann Scanlan, Polly Seip, Laura Winslow, and Shirley Cean Youngs. Work from the estate of the late Charles Kolnik will also be on view.
For more information, call Ann Scanlan at 882-8290 and/or visit www.sylvangallery.com.
The gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 49 Water St., Wiscasset.
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