The darkened halls of the Natural History Museum are places full of answers. We go there to seek context for our humanity through carefully constructed stories told by fossils, timelines, lingering artifacts and taxidermy. Some species come to life there–they become things of myth and legend. But some, probably most, never make it to the main halls. They are lost in obscurity, seemingly never to have lived–invisible ghosts of ancestors we never knew. Xan Peters’ paintings rescue some of these species from their taxidermic prisons. His paintings captivate, engage and encourage questions and connections. Why Look? asks the viewer to examine Nature in an art gallery–why look at nature here? What can we learn about our natural world when it comes to us as an artistic expression, free from the detachment of science? Most of his subjects are extinct or in decline, captured in oil paintings that exude both drama and scientific detail. His technique is based in classical oil painting reminiscent of the Baroque Period, emphasizing dramatic lights and shadows, and deep, rich hues. There is a particular focus on idealized form in his work that glorifies these animals-there is no specter of death in these portraits-only glowing, exuberant life. Xan studied Paleontology at the University of Montana for three years before switching to Studio Art and Museum Studies as a major. It was here that the synergies between the worlds of art and science collided for him. He received his MFA from Tufts last year, finishing with an acclaimed thesis and painting exhibit, Trace Fossils. The Art Faculty at Tufts was so impressed with Xan’s abilities that upon graduation they hired him to teach painting Xan is part of a growing population of artists that have a strong interest in the sciences, especially biology and ecology, who are making art with a transdisciplinary approach and through a scientific lens. This is perhaps a result of the growing global awareness of the impending changes to our human experience and existence in the face of the climate crisis. Art focusing on extinction and diminishing species has taken on a new importance in activist and environmental movements, as well as developing a burgeoning presence in the art world. Xan’s aim is to merge the Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Fine Art. He recognizes and respects both institutions’ drive to find sense in a complex and entropic world, to explain our human histories in a way that contextualizes our present. But, he also strives to dismantle myopic institutional storytelling and false hierarchies in both that oversimplify stories too vast to fully tell.
Elements of a View
February 11, 2023
Zach Neven's minimalist landscapes are informed by place. He grew up and still lives in Columbia County and spends much of his time exploring and photographing back roads and mountain trails searching for new views and vistas of this beautiful countryside. The mountains, fields, forests and skies are starting points for his interpretations, which are reduced to elemental compostions of vibrant color and geometric shapes. Outlines appear where colors meet creating equally weighted, compact, flattened forms. While they are succinct and austere, they are also spiritual and expansive manifestations of the artist's kinship with his surroundings.
November 12, 2022
Will McLeod likes a challenge. In fact, it is the difficulty, sometimes impossibility, of his ideas that hold his interest and propel him to complete his work. Where many artists finish with a completed, fully realized painting–he’s just getting started.
His work is produced in stages; the first, his paintings, done in acrylic, ink, marker, oil pastel, pencil, and/or watercolor, on paper. They are intuitive and free, mined from his subconscious and emotions from that particular moment in time. They are amalgamations of color form and composition with hints of figures and objects that reveal narrative and rhythm. When complete, they become muses, patterns for what's to come next– large intricate fabric mosaics, meticulously sewn constructions that are 3-d versions of these free flowing expressive paintings.
Will has a background in fashion design. He studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology and had a successful design career before pursuing fine art. He brings his expertise of fabric and garment development to his practice along with his love of process and pushing boundaries.
The materials in his textiles are chosen to interpret the colors and textures of the paintings. They can be heavy cloth to represent thicker, saturated pigments, or transparent silk to suggest a wash of watercolor. A peek at the backside of his textile works, reveal his deft hand at
the technical aspects of sewing and construction. The compositions are sumptuous, tactile translations of the paintings. They straddle both craft and abstract art.
“When I begin the construction of the textile version of the paintings, I switch gears. Fabric and sewing have built-in limitations. I must find ways to reign in aspects of the abstract 2-D works to pair with the cloth’s needs. I find the paths, edges and boundaries to the paintings that were designed to feel free and reactionary.”
October 8, 2022
There is a thrilling impatience to Gretchen Kelly’s recent figure paintings-as if she is more interested in capturing the moment rather than the body. Open-ended, elusive forms become bodies when a simple line swoops in to suggest an arm, a neck, a position in space. The energetic, expressive brushstrokes have opened the door to gestural painting and abstraction in a practice that has, until recently, emphasized drawing and detail.
Gretchen works from models and relishes quick poses over protracted sittings. “I have no desire to work on a painting over and over--for me, the art I make is about what I can do in that moment in time, what I can capture in seconds. The human figure is always moving, feeling, changing-it is never totally still. The potential of the human body to express is what I am interested in.”
Gretchen’s color palette, too, is evocative of an ever-morphing visual reality. She intuitively uses color as a way to convey body heat; warm sensuality appears as hot pink, crimson or bright yellow bold lines or tactile brushstrokes. Blues and greens are shadows, calm, and places of rest.
In her new work, Gretchen explores the human body’s delicate balance of fluidity and solidity. The figure’s physical presence is never in question, but they are temporal beings that seem to be on the verge of moving to their next pose.
Gretchen Kelly lives and works in Hudson NY.
Floral as Fauna
August 6, 2022
Emily Ritz’s richly detailed paintings evoke lush fantasies of botanical life that are sensual, pure and alive. She has created a world where human form and plant form are symbiotic; spiritually and physically connected. The texture and colors are inspired by coral reefs, moss and cactus groves but are subconscious inventions that create a world of abundance, acceptance and self-love–beyond earthly constraints and boundaries.
The figures in Ritz’s paintings are of her own body. They are intensely feminine and sumptuous, mingling erotically with the botanical forms. “My art practice is a way that I can experience myself and heal myself in a world that is beyond corruption, it is an escape to a place of total coexistence with nature.”
The show consists of three large works on paper and seven pieces on wood panel. The works on paper are watercolor and ink and each requires over 150 hours of assiduous, detailed drawing to achieve the textures and extraordinary movement of form. “Blue” took two months of full time painting and drawing to complete. The paintings on wood panels mark the first time the artist has included acrylic paint in her practice.
Emily is also an accomplished musician and has toured for over a decade. Her second album, In Love Alone, was released in 2021. Her music and lyrics explore duality of existence, playing loneliness against catharsis, longing against healing, and solitude against love. Her art practice and music are linked by these themes.
Michael Larry Simpson
July 6, 2022
Michael Larry Simpson reintroduces us to the iconic images of vintage Sifo and Playschool children’s puzzles from the 1960s and 1970s in his new collection of paintings, Puzzle Redux. These puzzles were ubiquitous in playrooms, classrooms and doctor’s offices for generations of children, and for Simpson they were an introduction to art and illustration that informed a young artistic mind. In this new digital age of screens and videos, the primitive and static nature of these simple images take on a new importance, as if relics from another time that deserve reverence and embellishment.
“As a child, the bold colors, thick wood pieces, and characters in these wooden puzzles hooked me. When I rediscovered them as an adult and artist I was captivated again–and saw endless possibilities to evolve them–and personify them with my emotional experience of childhood–the idyllic as well as the traumatic and chaotic.”
In this collection, his second series of puzzle paintings, Simpson keeps the subject characters intact, cutting each piece by hand to match the original puzzle’s cut lines, but then reimagines them as more substantial and expressive Pop Art. The commercial and manufactured are replaced with burnished oil pigments and expressive colors that signal a unique artist’s voice. Many of the characters or objects are isolated,lacking detail or context adding a mysterious gravitas to their playfulness.
April 9, 2022
Seeing Through the Gray
Mary Breneman debuts a new series of expressionistic landscape and wildlife paintings in “Seeing Through The Gray”, that marks a new direction into abstraction and heightened personal expression. These intimate paintings are inspired by photographs taken on meditative nature walks that are later reinterpreted in the studio. They are at once, representational, abstract and emotionally expressive. Her gestural brush strokes remind us of not only the artist’s hand on the canvas, but of her presence at the scene.
Up until 20–, Brennaman exclusively painted in Mexico, where she lived, and owned a gallery for ### years. Her paintings were widely collected and celebrated for their vibrance and representation of Mexican culture and landscape. When family called her back to the East Coast she settled in Hudson, NY. Although overjoyed to be closer to her children and grandchildren, she mourned the loss of the bold colors and spirit of Mexico. In this new Hudson Valley landscape, she found herself lost– spiritually and artistically. “Everything was different, the colors, the geography, the energy–I couldn't see anything but gray.”
She began to take long walks and photograph trees, country roads, and wildlife. She studied her photographs and used them as structural models, but when painting, her colors came from memory and emotion. She began to discover a new palette and sensed that the beauty she witnessed was transient, changing before her eyes. The rush of seasons loosened her brush strokes as if to capture her subjects in motion. This new relationship between palette and place demanded a new way of painting and the work flowed out of her. What had been gray became dusty pinks and lilacs, ocher was reflected in the water, shadows were blue and violet. Her fluid brushstrokes and colors evolved to convey a subtle vibrance, creating a bracing intimacy between painter and subject.
“My work is going through a profound change that I don’t see until it's on the canvas. I find I’m more interested in form and color than rendering. I’m paring subjects down to their essential details and am less intentional–more open to intuition”. I’ve realized that my paintings are changing –they are pure expressions of where I am.”
This show embodies an artist’s journey– geographically, spiritually and artistically. They are the result of loss and struggle but also metamorphosis and growth. They are the beginning of a new understanding of her new place in the world.
March 12, 2022
D’Arcy Simpson Art Works is thrilled to exhibit the lyrical abstract worldscapes by artist Joseph Stabilito. Stabilito’s canvases are densely layered with poured acrylic paint, bold gestural lines and intricate ink drawings that dance together to create dreamy, poetic, sinuous compositions. In these paintings, large biomorphic forms coexist with cybergrids, architectural designs, skulls and other tiny hidden images. They are simultaneously macro and micro.
Stabilito begins by pouring tinted acrylic medium directly onto the canvas. The pools of paint are then tipped and swirled to create a scaffolding for the compositions. He then builds and layers the surface alternating hues, bold brush strokes and drawings. There are direct references to landscape, biology and pattern making, but the overall effect is an undulating universe in motion where all worldly things converge in a rush.
“I paint what I see in life-my brain is a sponge that is always taking things in, and what impresses me shows up in the work. I am very attuned to color, pattern and shape everywhere and in everything–it all gets funneled through my imagination and then reemerges in my paintings.”
Stabilito’s work has been widely shown and collected throughout the US and Europe since his first show in 1982. His work has been in the pages of Architectural Digest, Art in America, NY Spaces, The New York Times and other major publications. And, his painting, Candy Kiss, appears in the Jennifer Lopez film, Hustlers. He is also an interior designer. He lives in Hillsdale NY.
February 12, 2022
Jeremy Bullis/David Bullis
Michael Larry Simpson
D’Arcy Simpson Art Works is pleased to feature new work by Jeremy Bullis and Michael Larry Simpson in Looking Up. The large scale color field paintings by Simpson shown alongside Bullis’ ethereal kinetic mobiles fashions an immersive atmosphere of movement filling this intimate gallery with music for the eyes. In this exhibition, each artist explores ideas of movement, balance, tension and harmony within their own practices of composition and construction.