WESTFIELD - "Painters Who Pot: Potters Who Paint," an invitational show installed at the Portage Hill Art Gallery on Route 394 between Mayville and Westfield, will run for the month of August. The show will include the work of Stephanie Brash, Audrey Kay Dowling and Jim Reno. The artist reception for this show will occur on Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the gallery. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun of meeting the artists and sharing a cake to celebrate the 30th year of business of Portage Hill Art Gallery.
Dowling, gallery owner, has worked in both media throughout her career as an artist. She is also an avid reader of artist's biographies. In her reading she noticed that a number of internationally well-known painters, including Picasso, Vlaminck, Gauguin, Matisse and Jackson Pollock and others had also made pottery during their painting careers. When developing the concept of this show, Dowling started to consider what crossovers exist between the mediums and the regional artists best known for their quality and use of both clay and 2D media. Reno and Brash were logical choices to add to Dowling's own multimedia works in this show.
In a conversation with Brash about her motives for working in both clay and paint and drawing media, Brash explained that she is an interdisciplinary artist who has always worked in both two and three dimensions to express her interest in figurative and representational forms, animals and narrative works that investigate memory and familial relationships. Her early two-dimensional works were drawings and paintings in oils, oil pastel and acrylics while three-dimensional works were masks and sculpture in paper-mache. Now she is working primarily in clay.
Jim Reno’s artwork will be displayed in the “Painters Who Pot: Potters Who Paint” exhibit, opening at the Portage Hill Art Gallery on Sunday.
"I stumbled upon clay and it has become a passion," Brash said. "It is very different from painting yet I find similarities. I love the idea of making objects that are intended to be interacted with on a direct physical level just as I have in making each piece.
"Painting is a different matter. I start with an empty space and fill it. With clay the mass is there from the beginning. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy painting but it feels more illusory. Sometimes my process with clay feels like three-dimensional drawing with the incising of line, texture, dealing with edges and positive and negative space."
Dowling has used different painting and clay techniques throughout her 35-year art career. Her first Best in Show in Professional Crafts Award at the Bestor Plaza Show on the grounds of Chautauqua, was given to her ceramic Noah's ark in 1975. The following year a quilted piece of hers was accepted into a National Show in Greenburg, Pa., and she was also invited to participate in a national watercolor show that took place in Goshen, N.Y. From these early times of showing and exploring many different media as forms of self-expression, Dowling has continued to let what she wants to express dictate the media she will use, rather than choosing the media and then deciding what to say.
"I love to let my creativity fly and see no reason to limit myself as I work in my different studios," Dowling said. "The most fun of all occurs when I intersect lots of different visual art forms. I expect to be exploring more and more in that direction."
In addition to mixed media pieces and painting on clay pieces, Dowling does paint in more traditional manners, primarily using oils and gouache. Her clay work includes award winning one of a kind vases as well as functional pottery glazed in the sky, water and earth colors of the Lake Erie landscape that she so deeply loves.
Reno has been a potter in the Chautauqua region the longest of the three artists represented in this show. With his wife Pat, he has enjoyed a very successful career making pots for more than 40 years. Reno is best known for his functional porcelain work featuring his dragonflies, crows, chickens and his newest motif, Great Blue Herons, but he is also an avid painter who paints using oils on canvas almost daily.
"I just make pots and do some painting and I'm not even very receptive to formal schooling in art," Reno said. "What would have happened to Matisse or Picasso if they'd gone for that MFA?
"The crossover between painting and ceramics seems quite remote to me. To draw a picture of a pot and then produce it never seems to work for me. Historically many painters have worked in clay, but the connection always seems tenuous. Maybe it's all about drawing. To draw on a flat surface is interesting, but on a curved form it really gets intriguing. The work of Rudy Autio comes to mind."
Portage Hill Art Gallery is in its 30th year of serving its mission of bringing high quality regional artwork to the public. Donald and Audrey Dowling have been the owners since its inception. This Sunday reception is a time that the Dowlings would like to use to thank all of their gallery friends for all of the years of support they have given to the regional artists. There will be a free drawing for a ceramic piece and cake will be served. Everyone is invited.
Portage Hill Art Gallery is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday throughout the month of August. For more information, call 326-4478.