As I sit here at the keyboard, my backyard view is of gardens punctuated by deep red bee balm and bright yellow black-eyed susans, pink lilies and lobelia, buttery primroses and lilac hostas. High summer is not a time for strenuous intellectual or artistic activity. It’s a time for rest and relaxation, for enjoying the out of doors and the rejuvenating splendor of green and growing life. So I went looking for a summer flower show and I found a fine one ijn Flower Power, Part II at the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Massachusetts (through August 15).
Clark Gallery has specialized in established and emerging New England artists since 1976. Like many of the contemporary galleries that have survived the ups and downs of the markets over the past 40 years, Clark tends to focus on art that is intelligent, beautiful, and accessible on many levels, from the decorative to the deconstructive. Flower Power is a group show of works by close to 40 artists, each piece having varying degrees of floral inspiration or inference.
For straight up classic still-life with flowers, there are sumptuous paintings such as “Still Life With Anemones” and “Rosamundi” by New Hampshire’s official artist laureate James Aponovich, and “El Descano,” a painting of tulips in a vase with cacti, lemons, and landscape by Santa Fe artist Kevin Sloan.
Gail Boyajian, a Massachusetts painter, contributes a large (12″ x 60″) vertical landscape of allegorical intent, “Hippocrene Spring” being a magical scene animated by winged beings. Eleanor Miller, a Connecticut artist, evinces a similar sensibility with “Embracing Light,” a canvas in which a great orange blossom falls through dripping space to the surprise of a hovering hummingbird.
Shelley Reed, who won the 2005 Maud Morgan Prize (awarded to mid-career female artists by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), is represented by a stylish rondo of a single gray tulip blossom. Barbara Kassel, of Maine, Manhattan, and Martha’s Vineyard, also paints tulips, albeit a vase of parti-colored flowers on the windowsill of an urban bedroom in “Engaged,” an ambitious 36″ x 72″ interior with skyline views, mirrored reflections, and a spray of forsythia.
Artists who employ flowers in less literal ways include Timothy Kadish, a young Massachusetts painter whose “Rainbows and Grenades” reads like an ideographic commentary on war; and Nicole Duennebier, formerly of Maine, now working in Boston, whose “Bright Beast Study” is like a fetid flower decaying right before your eyes. On the lighter side, there are whimsical little black and white acrylics by artist-illustrator Rebecca Doughty of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
On the one hand, Flower Power could be regarded as lightweight summer fare, yet the diversity and density of this little flower show reminds us why flowers have been an artistic convention for centuries. They are embodiments of natural beauty and of the sweet, transient nature of life on earth.
[Clark Gallery, 145 Lincoln Rd., Lincoln MA, 781-259-8303.]