Snow and swimming pools on 3rd St.

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Justin Snow’s expressionist paintings at 3rd St. Gallery are engaged in a dialog with the news of the world. He figures it’s his turn to talk after being a good listener for so long.

Snow’s large, energized paintings, which evoke architecture in the midst of explosions of color, lines and words, are beautiful and agitated at the same time. And the artist told me when I spoke with him in the gallery yesterday that they were generated in the cauldron of his rage against things like war and other wrongs in today’s world. (top image is an unstretched oil on canvas, title, I think, is “Meanwhile in another part of town.”)

Three of the works, all oils on canvas or linen, some stretched, some not, were made before the artist slipped away to Ireland for a residency at the Ballinglen Foundation in Ballycastle, County Mayo. While living in the 300-person village in Ireland, the artist made another — quite different — body of work, and that goes on view next month at Pagus Gallery in Norristown. Those works, Snow said, are calmer and reflect a life without the day-to-day intrusion of disturbing headlines. The postard image for the Pagus show, interestingly, shows a work that’s dark and brooding but also romantic.

Snow’s rage against and engagement with the world — and the colors he chose to illustrate them (beautiful pinks, yellows and oranges as foils against black marks) — remind me of Philip Guston with Red Grooms’muscularity. (image is “My Brother’s Keeper”)

I didn’t ask him which body of work he felt closest to, the calm Ireland works or the fiercely engaged works from home but I’d guess now that now that he’s home and the news intrudes the way it always does in lives so hooked up, plugged in and “on” all the time, that those atmospheric Ireland paintings might seem like a dream from another life on another planet. See Snow’s website for more images.

Swimming Pools and Donuts

I’m fighting an impulse here to talk about the male impulse to art-making versus the female and while I know people will be people and that those guys, Giorgio Morandi and Chardin, made the world’s best still life paintings and Susan Rothenberg, Lee Krasner,Elaine DeKooning and other women have made some of the boldest abstract or almost abstract works. And, of course Vermeer painted nothing but domestic interiors. I know all that, but still, when I ran into Artist’s House to check out Nancy Bea Miller‘s new works after coming from seeing Justin Snow’s across the street, I was struck by the Mars/Venus argument that a woman’s focus is different than a man’s — not better, nor worse, just different. (image is one of Bea Miller‘s still life paintings)

Bea Miller is a painter of her domus: figures and still lifes, captured in a kind of loving, luminous atmosphere that conveys time spent thinking about relationships. Her new works set up table top chess matches with donuts and and apples, peppermints and caramels. The works are small and lovely and imbued with a kind of restraint. Her objects keep their distance from each other. They are individuals and powerful yet alone in a way that makes them poignant. Those apples and candies may be parts of a family but they are also personalities in their own right.

A couple of works are figure paintings, big and colorful, of a child standing alone beside an outdoor swimming pool. The child, awkward and a little odd, is nonetheless monumental and the entire work, a kind of Hockney by Constable by Eakins, is sad and wondrous. Will the child jump in? Will he be able to swim? Will he live in that beautiful land? Or is this all a figment and a wish? “Henry at Smith’s Pool” (shown) might be a kind of allegory painting about Eden and innocence but it’s also, just like the still life paintings, about being alone in the world — and the hope of making it.

Bea Miller is a blogger, by the way, and I recommend her blog, genre cookshop, for a great weaving together of life and art. Lots of pictures, too.

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