Galleries : Light Shines At Carol Craven's
Island-born painter Anthony Benton Gude has 14 oil paintings on exhibit at the Carol Craven Gallery through June 28. Although his drawings and watercolors have been on display at the Gallery in the past, the oils represent the first major Island show for an artist who has built a reputation in the Midwest for murals and landscapes.
The warm light of Kansas, where he spent his teen years and now makes his home, captured the imagination of the regionalist painter, whose grandfather is Thomas Hart Benton. Mr. Gude describes Midwestern light as shimmering through the landscape and bouncing off it, especially in the fall. At an elevation of 1,400 feet, the atmosphere is brighter there than on the Vineyard, according to Mr. Gude.
As a child, Mr. Gude summered in Aquinnah with his grandfather and family, and he returns to the Benton compound annually with his four children for parts of the summer, finding inspiration from the Vineyard as well as the Midwest and Southwest. In 1996-1997 he spent the winter up-Island.
"I could learn which way the wind was blowing from how it whistled around the house," he says.
The radiant yellows and oranges in a grouping of four landscapes - some set in New Mexico - reflect Mr. Gude's fascination with a form of light very different than what is found on the Vineyard. In "River Bottom Fog," a boldly colored tree dominates the middle ground, silhouetted by incandescent lighting, while two deer linger in the foggy background. Each element in the painting has been isolated in a way that seems to resonate symbolically.
In "Sunrise Over Santa Rosa," yellow-tinted light bathes and flattens a vibrant rock cluster in the foreground of a lake and mountain vista. Brick-colored desert dominates in "Red Sand & Sage." A cemetery is the setting for "Loss," where the painter takes a big risk by including the shadowy outline of a woman seated on a gravestone in the foreground, while a male figure stands at a nearby gravestone. Red and yellow-hued clouds angle overhead, and two trees frame this compositionally strong painting.
The work on view demonstrates considerable variety, ranging from a nude drawing, three other figure paintings, a seascape, two handsome winterscapes and a grouping of still lifes. The drawing is a study for the most ambitious work in the show, "On the Beach."
In it, six bathers cluster under or near a yellow and orange beach umbrella that the one man, wearing dark blue trunks, reaches up to adjust. The others--four women of varying ages and a small child--are grouped around him in bright-colored bathing suits. Employing a more subdued lighting, the composition successfully executes the complex arrangement of bathers and beach with an appealing naturalness.
"Amy and Sudy" depicts a blonde-haired woman stroking the neck of a chestnut-bay horse in a field. A barbed-wire fence separates the two, and the painter has made the woman's arms--one of which rests disturbingly on the barbed wire--so slender that they echo the flimsy-looking fence posts nearby in strong contrast to her more substantial body. With ears back and head raised, the horse becomes a foreboding presence in the painting.
A whiskey jug commands the foreground of "Happy Hour," where a man sits with legs outstretched, eyes closed and hat propped on a foot. A red tractor directs the eye into the center of the work, with a small tree and hay rolls dotting the background under a big, cloudy sky.
Mr. Gude's most lyrical work appears in "Winter Still Life" and "East of Cimarron," where grasses or cornstalks rooted in snow dominate peaceful, carefully composed rural landscapes in the Midwest or Southwest. Using strong, primary colors to accentuate the lighting, his paintings radiate a sense of isolation and solitude.
Also on exhibit are 11 carved paintings by Eben Given. Working with acrylic paint on hardwood, he turns such scenes as "Sailboat," "Seascape With Rock" and a series of nudes into lively three-dimensional works.
Brooks Robards is a frequent contributor to The Times.