The Island’s own Walker Roman is among a handful of artists whose work is currently on exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Vermont. The juried show, titled “NXNE,” includes paintings selected from among a pool of 300 applicants from the New England area. Miles McEnery, who served as juror for the exhibit, is the owner of an eponymous gallery in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood that specializes in art from seminal postwar and contemporary masters.
Although Roman has shown his work at galleries both on- and off-Island for years, this is his first museum show. On the Vineyard the artist is represented by the Field Gallery, and he and his partner, Danielle Mulcahy, also sell their work under the shared brand Barnyard Saints at the Vineyard Artisans Festival, and at the Chilmark and Featherstone Flea Markets.
McEnery selected three of Roman’s paintings for the show. All three feature scenes from Martha’s Vineyard. Two show the Steamship Authority ferry Island Home as seen from unusual angles. The third, “Yawning of the Apocalypse,” is a seascape with a human figure in the foreground. The person, looking out at the sea with back turned to the viewer, is wearing a hoodie with a white stripe that blends seamlessly into the white line of the horizon. The figure is done in an almost photorealist style, while the landscape elements have a more impressionistic feel. It’s a very interesting image that fools the eye in a number of ways — drawing attention to the figure in a manner that gives the painting a three-dimensional feeling and separates the figure from the background while also drawing the two elements together.
The Steamship images feature a similar combination of detailed and more broadly depicted elements, with the close-up views of the boats rendered expertly in fine detail, and the sea, sky and, in one of them, the blocky posts of a pier appearing hazy and less distinct.
This method of combining techniques is a hallmark of the artist’s work. He often aims to point the viewer to a specific focal point in the same way that the eye automatically adjusts pinpoint and soft focus according to the target. On his website, Roman describes his analytical approach to painting: “Working primarily as a painter, my recent work focuses on perception of landscapes and the abstractions both visual and linguistic we impose to understand them.”
Roman creates both abstract and representational art, sometimes mixing the two on a single canvas.
He was somewhat surprised that the three paintings of his chosen by McEnery are all representational. “It was interesting because he primarily represents abstract painters,” he says. “The three pieces he ended up choosing all have a similar color sense. They’re all painted with the same process of monochromatic with a warm brown underpainting. Over the top of that I used more of a tonalist approach — a warm color and a cool color and then white, using that underpainting to create the value structure. The colors and the white create the tones and atmosphere on top of that.”
The Vineyard native studied painting at MassArt in Boston, then spent time working at the Institute of Contemporary Art, conducting tours and doing gallery talks. He and Mulcahy relocated to the Vineyard in 2013 and they share a studio at their home in West Tisbury.
The “NXNE” exhibit will hang at the Brattleboro Museum through March 2. You can view the show online at brattleboromuseum.org.