Alice Denison: May Day
Richard Raiselis: Facing Music
May 4 – 26 at Gallery NAGA
Alice Denison: May Day and Richard Raiselis: Facing Music is on exhibition from May 4 through 26. A reception for the artists and the public will be held at the gallery on Friday, May 4 from 6 to 8 pm.
Realistically painted with careful attention to detail, Alice Denison’s paintings, some of which are done on round panels, employ the use of flowers in unexpected ways. Isolated within the frame and painted on the top of a white background, each flower takes on a personality of its own. The overall gestalt is sentimental: some flowers feel droopy and lonesome, others appear vibrant and full of vigor, some are falling apart and others are coming to life.
“I started this body of work with a technical question that I wanted answered,” Denison says. “Can I remove the background? They aren’t landscapes, and I don’t want these to have narrative features nor do I want them to be strictly decorative. In removing the background and making the panels round, I created space without creating place. It was a complete shift in my orientation.
“The rings, or round panels, really started when I was a little girl. I went to a Catholic grammar school and in May there was a gigantic statue of Mary that all the girls would make crowns for. I wanted to make one but my mother, who was not Catholic (my Dad was), did not approve. Recently my Dad died and while these aren’t about his death, nothing would’ve made him happier than seeing that his daughter has finally made a crown.
“These paintings are not about my father’s death. They are about the questions that his death has brought about. Watching my father die and not knowing where he went is a question I keep asking.”
The subject matter in Richard Raiselis’s paintings has shifted from a lofty perch in Boston’s downtown financial district to his own neighborhood in Newton. He’s no longer looking down into the urban landscape, but up. His new subject, telephone poles and wires, form a sort of matrix of vertical and horizontal forms set against a backdrop of sky, sometimes blue, sometimes gray, and sometimes even black.
“It’s all Koko’s fault,” Raiselis says of his dog. “I walk him before sunrise and after sunset. I started looking up and seeing wires silhouetted against the sky. I had a professor at Yale, Erwin Hauer, who was a sculptor and he taught us to use sculptural principles and apply them to our painting. In other words, to approach an object from different angles when looking.
“Telephone poles and wires are a blight to every neighborhood, but they are fun once you really look at them. They are complex enough to have shape and form. They are like a musical staff. For years I’ve been trying to make music and painting come together.
“I’ve always worked from observation. These are a synthesis of direct observation and imagination. Nightwalk, a painting of wires set against a dark background, was done in this manner. I drew the wires from observation then adapted it in my studio against a night sky. I like the word ‘capriccio’ to describe what I’m doing now – it’s recognizable but somewhat strange.”
In the back office Gallery NAGA will present a series of Cloud paintings by Raiselis. All measuring 6x6 inches, they are delicate studies of clouds done looking out the window of Raiselis’s Boston University studio building.
Raiselis is a 2012 recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Painting Fellowship and in 2011 he received the Giovanni Martino Award for Landscape Painting from The National Academy in New York.
Images of the Denison and Raiselis work should be posted by May 4 at gallerynaga.com.