Art Beat attends the Marion Art Center Summer 2022 Members Show

With just under a hundred artworks by dozens of artists engaged in a wide range of disciplines and with no common theme, and tightly packed across two floors of the Marion Art Center, the members’ summer show resonates with palpable dissent. But that said, there is beauty to be found if one can dance around discord.

Find a dance partner. Or two. Or more.

Among the works that caught my eye was Butch McCarthy’s The Feast, an abstract acrylic painting with flecks of lavender, apricot, ecru, black and white. For those long familiar with his work, which begins with traditional landscapes, portraits and still lifes and occasionally touches on a pop art sensibility (Provincetown’s iconic Lobster Pot restaurant or a giant bottle of Tabasco Sauce, for example), it looks like a natural progression.

His work slowly shifts to a reductive approach, such as a few orange triangles against two rectangles of variant blue that still read as three sailboats in the harbor. “Holiday” seems to fully encompass the non-objective. Wherever this road takes him, it will be an interesting ride.

“My Backyard,” oil pastel on canvas by Susan Gilmore, depicts the woods behind her Westport home with an array of vibrant colors and compositional elements. She painted more than a dozen tree trunks to create a series of up and down movements. These vertical thrusts interact with horizontal bands of color that acknowledge the soil in the foreground, a flower bed, grass, bushes, a distant line of trees, and a pastel blue sky in the deepest background.

Gilmour takes Hans Hoffman’s push and pull approach to color relationships and drops it into the heart of the landscape, creating a dynamic picture plane.

Heather Long-Roise displays an acrylic close-up and personal portrait of a man in a red baseball cap and matching jacket. He is bearded, bespectacled and looks confused. He holds a pair of empty wands in his hand. It’s called “No Sushi for You,” apparently a reference to the famous “Soup Nazi” episode of “Seinfeld.” Long-Roise adds some lightness to the procedure.

There are four works by the sculptor John Magnan. One is a two-dimensional wall piece constructed from cut and shaped segments of maple, purple heart, walnut and cherry and arranged like an intricate puzzle. It’s called “Killing Commendatore” and refers to “Don Juan,” Mozart’s opera.

In the opera, Giovanni, a serial “seducer” (which is too kind of a word), rapes Donna Anna while disguised as her fiancé. When the victim’s father (Comendatore) chases him as he tries to escape, Giovanni kills him with a gun. Later in the opera, the ghostly Commendatore drags the rapist to Hell.

In Magnan’s beautiful construction, a key element is the face of the two men – the killer and the murdered – merged into one.

There is a trio of Magnan’s small sculptures displayed together on a pedestal. Although they share some cultural and thematic DNA, the three are distinct works.

Carved from maple and purple heart, “Subjugation” is shackles reminiscent of the kind used to transport captive Africans across the Atlantic to be sold into slavery in the Americas.

“Prison” is a pair of handcuffs (remarkably carved from a single piece of walnut) that speak to today’s injustice of the disproportionately high arrest and sentencing rates of black men, a tragedy born of prejudice, hatred and fear.

Finally, Magnan’s “Brown Paper Bag Test” (White Oak) refers to colorism, the phenomenon whereby black people with lighter skin tones may receive preferential treatment over those with slightly more melanin.

Magnan, an artisan of the highest rank, pulls no punches with his socially charged work. And that’s a very good thing. Some items should be approached with the kid gloves off.

A few other pieces that caught my eye were Patricia Gray’s Capitano, Noel Keech’s Vernal Equinox, and Michael Pietragala’s Tarot Case, taken back from a private collection.

But dance with whoever you want to dance with.

“The Summer Members’ Show” is on display at the Marion Art Center, 80 Pleasant St., Marion, through Sept. 16.

Leave a Comment