Ann Smith, Featherstone Center for the Arts executive director, is jubilant while walking through Joyful Geometrics — an exhibition that shines in the Francine Kelly Gallery. The gallery’s inherent geometric soaring architecture and abundant light complement the some 120 pieces by 75 artists from the community that covers an enormous range of media.
Why geometry, and why now? “We just kept thinking that all through COVID the things that have kept people sort of sane and happy are Jenga, Wordle, crossword and jigsaw puzzles — that the shapes in these activities were really helping us get through the pandemic, and also what in our daily lives have geometric shapes that bring us joy,” Smith explained.
The exhibition circumvents expectations of purely abstract works of straightforward circles, squares, trapezoids, and triangles. We also see geometry in realistic scenes, such as in the receding, converging rows of the stark winter trees in Frances McGuire’s “Wasque,” the stacked boxes in John Holladay’s “portraits” of lobster traps, or Paul Doherty’s two tranquil, gorgeous photographs of individual irregular stone cairns silhouetted against a summer sunset sky at Moshup beach. Wholly different is Elizabeth Convery-Luce’s stunning “Nightwatcher — Osprey,” a photograph of an enormous looming moon that encircles the upper portion of the bird sitting on a jutting diagonal branch. And for a touch of humor, Susan Pratt’s collage “Thirsty?” is reminiscent of the pinup girls with the alluring photo of a buxom blonde lying smack center over a Coca Cola advertisement that’s full of undulating shapes of the product itself.
“I think the exhibition’s a really fascinating look at how people interpret the theme. We tried to tell the story through color and different mediums. Everyone has a different eye on how to interpret that. People see shapes in everything,” Smith said.
Before you even enter the exhibition, you are welcomed on either side of the doorway with Amy Custis’ circular compositions of delicate, subtly folded origami pinwheels that are reminiscent of Japanese umbrellas. To the right, just inside the entrance, are geometric abstract pieces including Donna Straw’s two enticing straight-edged acrylic landscapes “Journey” and “In Between” that have sections that shimmer, recalling gold leaf. And there are Kate Lizotte’s paper works, “Desert Sunset” and “Night Desert” that have echoes of Mondrian-type compositions.
Looking straight ahead, you see that the room pops with color on the right and has more muted palettes on the left. The two sides play off one another, beckoning us to look more closely.
One of the delights of the show is discovering all the different materials represented. Among the array of ceramic pieces are Frank Creney’s handsome cylindrical vases that call out to be rotated to reveal their delicate, abstract wave-like patterns. Just to the right is Sandy Bernat’s delicate paper architecture-like constructions that mix strict geometric shapes with more organic ones intriguingly titled “Revealing” and “Possibility.”
Mixed media artworks include Daisy Lifton’s Asian-influenced “Coin Artifact,” created with ink and watercolor, and “Zen Circle with Zen Phrase,” made with ink and paper carrying a Zen phrase that talks about a “great circle” and “great square,” thus mirroring the ink-brushed circle sitting in the middle of the square canvas.
Round shapes abound in Debra and Robert Yapp’s wonderful lamp, “Rectangular High Rise,” in which its handsome walnut stand is filled with snugly stacked beach stones. Opposite in aesthetic is Robert Chaunce’s mesmerizing, Escher-like graphite and charcoal “Labyrinth” depicting a towering structure that defies three-dimensional logic.
Hanging in front of the window-paned doors at the end of the gallery is Paul Hughes’ luminescent stained glass geometric composition. Just to the right, punctuating the white wall, is row upon row of colorful, small, layered vaulted shapes in Althea Freeman Miller’s dyed wood cutouts that make up “Alter Ego.”
There’s a great multitude of quilts including Linda Hearn’s stunning, enormous “Peaks of Black” created with tightly knit diamonds that vibrate from the expert mixing of the colors in her fabrics. Minor Knight’s luxurious-looking “Black Diamond” quilt is made with heirloom kimono silks and a Jim Thompson raw silk backing that leaves you yearning to run your hand along its surface.
Charlotte Cole’s starburst-filled quilt, dominated by enticing shades of blues and punctuated with tiny bursts of color and appropriately entitled “Blazing Start,” is the final piece you see as you walk out of the show, hanging opposite the gallery entrance. Appropriately, on the desk in front of it, you can’t help but notice the breathtaking floral arrangement, which perhaps unwittingly serves to foreshadow the delights yet to come in Featherstone’s next exhibition, “The Art of Flowers.”
“Joyful Geometrics” is open daily from 12 to 4 pm through May 1 in the Francine Kelly Gallery at Feather Center for the Arts.