Kat O’Connor: This Fluid Report of Motion
On view June 20 through August 3, 2019
Opening reception: Thursday, June 20, 6:00-9:00 PM
Artist talk: Tuesday, June 25 at 12:00 PM
What do we expect from a traditional portrait that takes away from the expression of the human being? Can the body, the hands, better express who that person is? Kat O’Connor explores these questions in This Fluid Report of Motion. O’Connor’s portraits of women, which rarely show faces, encourage the viewer to see each individual’s passions, experiences, wisdom, and confidence as conveyed by their hands and bodies. Each woman floats in water, presenting an environment for magnifying strength, finding purpose, and conjoining realism and abstraction.
Kat O’Connor received her Bachelor of Arts in Art with highest honors from Montana State University and her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She has shown her artwork extensively throughout Massachusetts, Texas, Montana, and beyond and is a Copley Master at the Copley Society of Art in Boston.
Concurrently on view in the West Gallery is About Face: A Members’ Exhibition. Featuring over 120 artists, the work on view presents approaches to likeness, expression, and mood through representations of individuals, pairs, or groups in a variety of different two- and three-dimensional media.
image: Kat O’Connor, Reality as an Infinite and Questionable Shrug (detail), oil on panel, 10″ x 20″
Robin Reynolds: Summer Blooms/Winter Gardens
On view September 6 through October 5, 2019
Opening reception: Friday,September 6, 6:00-9:00 PM
Artist talk: Tuesday, September 10 at 12:00 PM
Robin Reynolds’ large-scale, richly colored floral paintings are a shamelessly gorgeous innovation in the traditional genre of New England plein air painting. Unafraid of being a “woman painter” in her domestic garden, Reynolds unapologetically embraces the much-maligned notion of beauty, producing lush, layered, and glossy surfaces. Summer Blooms/Winter Gardens exhibits this first series of paintings, the product of nearly two decades of evolving artistry, alongside her newest works. A new group of mixed-media compositions are a natural extension of her paintings, and serve as their seasonal counterpart.
Reynolds’ relationship to traditional plein air painting is focused, energetic, and playful. Rather than working towards an image of an expansive vista, Reynolds approaches a small section of garden. Her subjects include dahlias, echinacea, lime-light hydrangeas, cleome, zinnias, poppies, and clematis, chosen for their ability to provide different colors and timing of their blooms and their fading. Scale contracts as she tightens the wide expanse of traditional landscape painting to a non-traditional focus on a few plants, and then expands as she explores their forms and colors across large, square surfaces.
Instead of depicting a time-anchored botanical or geographical exactitude, Reynolds works in a series of three to five sittings. She welcomes the ways that weather and the passage of days affects the plants from one sitting to the next, and often moves her viewpoint to create further change. The result is an abstraction of the garden’s colors and lines, capturing the essence of a place and its growth, bloom, and decay.
Her paintings are seasonal in every sense. During the winter, as the earth lies fallow, she builds her boards and prepares their surfaces. She adheres a cold-pressed paper to the wood, gives it two coats of gesso and a sanding, and repeats that process for a perfectly smooth base. Between April and November, she paints outside, never in the studio. Her paintings are built through an unpredictable play between thick and thin brushstrokes, layers of transparency and opacity, painterly additions and subtractions that alternately build up the surface and scrape it down to the glowing white base.
Over the years, Reynolds became less content spending winters simply preparing to work when warmer weather came. She challenged herself to find an indoors process that would draw from her plein air paintings, and to create a body of work that would produce a similar effect to her paintings without their lush colors. Her interest in printmaking led her to linocut rubbings of flowers that employed the calligraphic, confident mark-making of her paintings. A collector of vintage gardening encyclopedias, she began to add acrylic transfers and collage to these prints and then strip them back, developing the same sense of layers, transparency, and opacity as in her paintings. This series is in process: for her ArtsWorcester exhibition, Reynolds is expanding her scale of these works to approach the size of her floral paintings. A book of vintage lace samples will add new linear elements, and expand the repertoire of images, while continuing her unabashed embrace of the traditionally feminine associations of gardens and floral paintings. Like a winter garden, defined by the structures of dead stems and leafless branches, these works distill the lines and forms explored in her paintings, while employing new vocabularies to new effects.
This exhibition will showcase Reynolds as an accomplished artist, simultaneously capable of experienced, confident work, and taking on new approaches and new media mid-career. It offers ArtsWorcester an important opportunity to anchor and showcase a local artist who has, up to now, enjoyed her professional success elsewhere. Despite living just outside Worcester for years, Reynolds has never had a solo exhibition in this city. While she has shown her work publicly for years, her only outlets have been at significant distances from her home, her local audiences and artist networks. She is eager for the opportunity to show a cohesive body of work—in fact, two of them—to her home community, and to build support for her art in the same place that nourishes it.