Landscapes touched with a magic wand

Dawn Greeley paints a luminous landscape in "Marshland." Photos courtesy of Shaw Cramer Gallery

By Pat Waring - July 19, 2007

The Shaw Cramer Gallery in Vineyard Haven, a small, slightly tucked-away jewel box of an art space, is currently aglow with paintings by Wendy Weldon and Dawn Greeley. Though using different mediums, individual techniques, and disparate styles, the two artists both create images with a magical feeling, and use color with a spontaneity that suggests liberation from the confines of everyday reality.

The brilliance and shimmer in Wendy Weldon's acrylic paintings result from her selective use of gold leaf and her technique of building then rubbing away layers of paint. The captivating effect is at once ancient and contemporary. Her colors are richly hued and intense, her treatment of familiar up-Island landscapes so imaginative as to render them at once recognizable and fantastic. Along with seeing these as landscapes it is fun and satisfying to view them as purely abstract designs, arrangements of luscious color - a rectangle of glowing gold, the rocks becoming spheres, crimson, purple, green, then strong swaths of deep blue, ochre, yellow.

Ms. Weldon returns again and again to the same subject, a spare up-Island landscape with simple barns and stone walls the only sign of human intrusion. But if the subject is the same it changes dramatically in every view, the colors and perspective rendering a familiar scene brand-new.

"I love the stone walls, the curves of the land, the blues of the pond, the Hornblower barn on the South Shore, the tree line against the horizon, and the changing shades of the shrubs and undergrowth," writes Ms. Weldon in her artist's statement. "The paintings reflect my commitment to be a steward of this beautiful area."

Squibnocket Pond
As seen here in her painting, "Squibnocket Pond," Wendy Weldon's magnificent up-Island landscapes are burnished and glowing.

Indeed the canvases are the fruits of close and loving observation, the artist caring about and getting to know her subject so essentially, so intimately that she can play with color, light, shading, and emphasis to bring the scene again and again to vibrant life.

The gold-roofed structure in "Hornblower Barn," the biggest canvas, rivets the eye while the viewer is mesmerized by the distant landscape with its rainbow of lush, multi-layered color, swaths of deep blue, green, bright lemony yellow. Gold leaf shooting through the rubbed layers of mossy green and warm brown accents the barn's sidewalls. Ms. Weldon says she began to use gold leaf after being enchanted by the paintings and frescoes of Fra Angelico during a recent trip to Tuscany.

In "Lightened Stone Wall," the foreground rocks are beautiful, brilliantly colored like beads - soft green, robin's egg blue, coral, a tropical sandy hue - and burnished like gems. Beyond, again we see the landscape in brilliant sweeps of color, a gold sky shimmering above.

Like big, friendly giants, the massive rocks in the fanciful "Dream in Squibnocket" heap up to embrace and dwarf the barn. The soft-looking boulders are molded with a delicious palette - pink, purple, shades of blue, turquoise, while the barn stands muted and modest, clothed in quieter blues and greens. Again in "Glimpse of Squibnocket Pond" it is the rocks that delight the eye, glowing with rose and pink and browns.

The smaller "Hornblower Barn at Dusk" has a different, peaceful feeling as the gold-tinged barn and adjoining shed are seen close-up, the surrounding landscape muted with approaching night. "Off Season" is a departure in mood and the most realistic of all as the artist sees the beach through a wintry lens, here describing the stone wall in gray, light brown, accents of white light. One can feel the chill, hear the stillness.

Up a few steps in an airy room where light pours in through two tall windows, hang paintings by Dawn Greeley. Here too the artist turns her creative eye upon everyday landscapes, rendering them just a bit otherworldly with color and soft molding. This year Ms. Greeley covers her finished watercolors with a layer of wax, a clever technique to preserve the paintings without shielding them with glare-producing glass.

Four landscapes vary sharply in atmosphere, from the large "September Storm" with its ominous nearly black sky looming above a moody sea and landscape stained and muddied by fast-moving shadow, to the serene "Mustard Sky" in which wide, muted-yellow firmament soars above gently voluptuous dusty-rose hills.

In contrast to this calm, an adjacent landscape depicts a dense forest, the looming darkness shot through with highlights of bright blue green.

In a fascinating trio of paintings, Ms. Greeley ingeniously communicates familiar emotion in near abstract imagery. Front, center, and not surprisingly already boasting a red "sold" dot, "Together" captures intimacy in brilliant color through two barely realized soft shapes. The larger, taller one is molded with colors as vibrant as parrot feathers. The smaller, more delicate form is surrounded by a fiery, red swirl, a sweep of movement reaching out to the right - "like a matador's cape drawing you into the picture," remarks gallery assistant Evelyn Dengler. "Wondering" shows a single form, self-contained and meditative, in smoky rose hues.

Along with the work of these two talented Vineyard artists, which will be featured through July 26, the three-room second-floor gallery offers an array of eye-catching painting and sculpture and a lovely interlude of calm and color in its perch above Main Street.

Shaw Cramer Gallery, 56 Main St., second floor, Vineyard Haven. For more information, call 508-696-7323 or visit