Lifting the Veil
On view through April 11 Free
53 Cannon St. Gallery
53 Cannon St., 853-2004
Is expressionist art the new rock ‘n’ roll? It doesn’t seem so long since abstract painter Eva Carter was astride a motorbike, promoting rock star multimedia pieces that combined raw color with carefully chosen magazine clippings to capture some sonic swagger.
Now McLean Stith is striking a different chord with a series of landscapes she likens to a brand new album. It has 14 paintings, or tracks, in all. They were produced concurrently, with Stith tweaking each piece until it was ready; what most of us would term procrastination she rightly describes as, “learning as you go and adding as you continue.” The album’s concept is loose — opening your heart, the capacity to love without reason, the way we censor the quality of our perceptions, all aspects of Lifting the Veil.
While Stith isn’t quite ready to don sunglasses and assume a stadium-sized swagger, she’s capable of producing stand-out cuts. The acrylic “Storm Arising, Normandy France” places foamy white waves in the foreground, the sea as a massive midground, topped with a sky that almost mingles with the sea but has a softer texture. The knobbly trees of “Spanish Moss” also demonstrate Stith’s strong grasp of texture with the limbs casting darker and lighter blue shadows.
In some of the paintings there’s a sense of the visual feedback that Stith — a Mt. Pleasant dermatologist by day — experienced when she spent several weeks living at the McCulloughs’ studio in the South of France last year. “Downhill from Le Presbytere” shows a view not far from the farm. The contours of rolling hills are picked out with small, detailed brushstrokes and strong dashes of yellow and green spiking against subtle blues.
“I see painters all the time trying to be expressionistic,” says gallery owner/manager Currie McCullough, “but these really have a Van Gogh touch — the fragmentation, the kaleidoscope of colors … there’s so much going on in her paintings.” While acknowledging Van Gogh, Holland’s favorite ear-splitting punk, Stith avoids a tired retread of green hills and pastures, packing her landscapes with punchy emotion.
“Going to the South of France for three weeks was surreal,” says Stith. “I kept feeling like laughing out loud and thinking it wasn’t real.”
Nine months later, the artist has reinterpreted her sights and experiences as paintings like the long, thin “Field of Sunflowers 1 & 2.” It successfully gives the sense of driving down a country road and seeing a petal-packed field out your window. Other landscapes like “Lake Atitlan, Guatemala,” capture a similar essence from other lands, and Stith even gets away with using glitter to add glam rock highlights to bodies of water.
Lifting the Veil is at 53 Cannon, an art gallery set in a house with a too-proud-to paint job that’s also a studio for painter William McCullough. Since the gallery opened two years ago, his daughter Currie has facilitated traditional and contemporary art exhibitions, a Valentine’s Day fashion show full of wearable art and excerpts from a PURE Theatre play. She also co-curated her father’s Southern Painter retrospective at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park last Piccolo.
Now she’s planning to open a co-op at 80 Cannon St. Twelve other artists will be involved in a 6,000-square-foot space open six days a week; half that space will be devoted to showing work. Participants will include Kevin Harrison, RT Shepherd, and ceramic sculptress Marty Celum. Eleazar Cruz will produce video art and Currie hopes that the PURE theatre company will perform some plays there while they continue to search for a new space to call their own.
Meanwhile, Currie is prepping the next exhibit at 53 Cannon. This one’s called Deconstructing Forests, with hazy golden treescapes painted by Landis Powers. Like the coming co-op, Forests promises to reflect Currie’s devotion to “impassioned, sincere” art that hasn’t been created just to make a buck. Music to our ears.