On March 17th, 2017, I visited the Laffer Gallery in Schuylerville, NY. The exhibit “Beyond Color” is on view from March 11th until April 16th. The exhibition featured work from many artists including: Josh Smith, Gary Zack, Zack Lobdell, Elisa Sheehan, and many others. There were many works on display with the intention of using color to communicate a message. Works ranged from paintings on canvas to paintings on boards, from intricate pottery to delicate eggshells and blown glass. Many pieces stood out to me for various reasons, but I chose to focus three works: Dusk 5043 by Harry Orlyk and David Miller’s Sunrise, Sunset Series #4 and Sunrise, Sunset Series #5.
While observing Orlyk’s piece, Dusk 5043, an oil on linen painting, most of what was communicated was through color. This piece is heavily textured with layered paint. It seems to be influenced by impressionism. Because of the texture, the brush strokes are quite visible, and the shapes are not well defined. The ordinary subject matter along with the illusion of movement through wind also point towards impressionism. It is still obvious when looking at this painting, that it is a landscape, but it appears almost like a dream or a memory with fuzzy, ill-defined edges.
Orlyk’s use of pinks, oranges, and purples in the sky capture the feeling and mood of sunset in a field; it is soft and kind. The use of a deep purple for the mountains suggest that they are off in the distance, which in turn, pulls the trees and bushes closer to the viewer. This adds a sense of depth to the two-dimensional painting. The grass and foliage feel alive in this piece. The scratchy texture brings them to life, giving the viewer the impression of individual leaves and blades of grass moving in the wind. Orlyk effectively has used color to move the viewer beyond the need for clearly defined images. He has communicated a feeling of serenity, as if the viewer were actually sitting out in the field, feeling the breeze, watching the sky as the sun set.
David Miller, another artist I focused on that was shown at the gallery too sunsets in a different direction. Two pieces that caught my attention were a part of his Sunrise, Sunset Series. #4 and #5 were interesting in the was they were made. Miller’s work is much more abstract. It appears to be influenced by Abstract Expressionism. His brush strokes are visible and he uses solid, opaque colors in his paintings. There are drips of paint in some places of each piece that remind me of Jackson Pollack’s art style. Although these are abstract pieces, Miller’s effective use of color in each piece creates a different feeling.
Sunrise, Sunset Series #4 suggests a light, happy tone. My interpretation if this painting, is that it is a sunrise. Although, I’m sure it could just as easily be interpreted as a sunset. The brush strokes are soft and neat. This piece suggests a calm feeling with some excitement in the bottom left. On the other hand, Sunrise, Sunset Series #5 suggests something very different. This piece uses much darker, warm colors. The brush strokes are violent and messy. Many dots and drips all over the canvas suggest something erratic and scary, like nighttime, after a sunset. What was most interesting was the use of colors alone to portray such drastic differences in feelings when looking at these two paintings side by side.
Oil on Linen
16 1/2″ x 15″
Sunrise, Sunset Series #4
Mixed Media on Panel
18″ x 18″
Sunrise, Sunset Series #5
Mixed Media on Panel
18″ x 18″