Opening today, Thursday, August 31, at Edgartown’s Eisenhauer Gallery is “Dive In,” a striking new exhibit of T.S. (Tracey Sylvester) Harris’ oil paintings. The California artist is known for her celebration of water and its visual effects, providing a background for women swimmers. The Mike Benjamin Band will play on the square at 6 pm.
Found black-and-white snapshots from the mid-20th century inspire Harris’ paintings, which morph into brilliantly colored, anonymous portraits. The faces of the women portrayed are often cut off at the frame or otherwise obscured. The artist’s intense palette suggests floods of sunshine.
In “La Mer,” a woman in a black bathing suit leans against a railing with a block of blue water behind her. Feet and arms are generalized, and a gauzy hat throws a crosshatch of shadow onto one thigh, further sending the image toward abstraction. Neck and shoulder, divided by shadows, grow angular and slightly disproportionate, vaguely reminiscent of the way 19th century painter Ingres stretches his figures.
Motion again is the motif in “Touching the Sky,” where a black-suited swimmer hangs suspended in the air above a line of multicolored mini-flags. One hand becomes a mere suggestion of form, and once again, shadows help propel the figure into motion. The painting is a fascinating study of pure form and figurative precision.
“Evening Swim” projects a serenity in keeping with the lessening light of approaching night. Floating in what looks like a red inner tube, this swimmer has a stillness that is gently balanced by the ripples she creates by dipping one hand into the water. Legs and torso could almost belong to two separate bodies, and the arm that reaches toward the water has an interestingly non-natural shape. Harris has continued the mix of water and light into the lake that rises beyond the swimmer. It is a masterfully executed composition.
The T.S. Harris exhibit will remain on display until Labor Day. It is a compelling exercise of expertise.