March 5 - April 2, 2003
With a pronounced edginess dominating contemporary art, the very mention of plein air (in open air) painting produces a rather quaint image in ones mind. A painter, palette in hand, working on an outdoor motif seems as distant as one can get from the media-savvy conjuring to which we are accustomed at this end of the modernist experiment. But an equally pervasive openness, allowing artists to work in any manner they feel serves their vision, goes a long way toward dissipating any sense of anachronism. It seems only fair to claim that in today's stylistic free-for-all, all techniques are on an equal footing. Video events, autobiographical remnants, formaldehyde horrors, or plein air paintings can all be seen as serving a consistent, familiar purpose - the communication of things to deep for mere description.
And besides, categorization reveals little in the analysis of individual works of art. Even among plein air painters of the recent past there is a diversity of vision that tempers an emphasis on shared technique. Compare Edward Hopper's brooding roadside vignettes with Fairfield Porter's sunny backyards and you can see how, even in the eye of the modernist storm, sensibility and subject matter provide the better part of meaning. Elizabeth O'Reilly paints plein air today, and it is to her mastery of this technique that we can attribute the light, spontaneity and overall painterly cohesion so obvious in her work. But her subject matter is very much her own.
Emigrating from Ireland in 1986 she has endured the relatively new experience of a continued familiarity with her place of origin alongside her adopted home. With transportation and communication being so much easier today, Elizabeth rode the emotional displacement of emigration in rapid forward and reverse modes, initially leaving her with a sense of belonging to neither. Having first been drawn to subjects found in the abandoned towns of West Ireland, it took her some time before she recognized the industrial ruins of the Gowanus Canal as kindred to their domestic counterparts across the Atlantic.
As a painter she is now at home in abandoned precincts found in any landscape, which is to say her work has expanded to become an expression of passage to an emotional state between location and memory.
Paintings in this exhibition were chosen from work completed in Ireland, New York, and Vermont. Each is a reflection on sentiment deeply felt, by an artist whose talents prove particularly effective in rehabilitating that which ties many of us to a special patch of earth.
(all images are oil on hardboard unless otherwise indicated)
Silver Light from Third Street Bridge, 2002 ...
Third Street Bridge, Reflections in Green, 2001
Smith & Ninth Platform, 2000
Michelle's Rock, 1994
Vermont Waterfall from Above, oil on canvas 1993
Roaring Water, 1994
White Pool at Nephin Mountain, 2000
Potato Ridges, Lois na Rann, 1998
The Rock, 1997
On the Corofin Road, 2001
Golden Leaves, 2000
Third Street Bridge from Caroll Street, 2001
In a Corner, Ballycastle, 2000
Pylons Under the Hamilton Avenue Bridge, 1999
Reflections of Expressway, Ninth STreet Bridge, 2001
Tanks and Water, Red Hook, 2003
Union Street Bridge, Gowanus Canal, 2001
Corofin Road, the Burren, 2001
White Foam, Coast Road, County Clare, 2001
Toor Pier, Cork, 2001
Downpatrick Head and Ocean, 1997
Ballyroan from Below, 2001