Have you ever attend a concert and wished that the lead singer didn’t exist so that the guitarist could shine? Many in attendance reacted this way to the reception held at Bannister Gallery last week, featuring artist Mary Bucci McCoy from Beverly Massachusetts and Lisa Russell, an art professor who specializes in painting here at
Rhode Island College. Although both artists, using unique methods, focused on abstraction and worked mainly with acrylic paint, Russell seemed to have received a louder applaud from guests in attendance.
After seeing McCoy’s artwork a few years earlier, Russell loved her paintings and wanted to have an adjoining show.
“I felt it would be a really interesting dive bar between the work,” said Russell. “I have a total affinity for her work.”
Russell explained that although the two artists looked at similar objects and used similar materials, Russell works from abstracting a still life whereas McCoy took certain aspects of an object and would reference its external qualities.
Russell’s series of work, titled “the search for essence,” is both philosophical, an exploration of what she referred to as ‘a search of the nature of things and why they are here,’ as well as focusing on the perception of portraying her discovery through painting. Her search for visual relationships is shown in her work, to which she aimed to be a sensory and perceptual experience. The mashed up brush strokes almost reminds the viewer of looking down into a hallway or of something more natural, like plant life or a landscape. Although very abstract, the viewer can still see that there’s depth in the piece. One student described her reaction to the pieces as “looking out of your car window on a rainy day with the wipers going.”
The jolts of energizing paint make the scene feel almost streaky. This creates a ‘tension,’ almost, that Russell explained she is constantly struggling to find in her artwork. The exciting movement in the piece creates an effect that makes the viewer assume the artist’s emotion breathed into paintings.
Many of her paintings use one small patch of bold contrasting color while the rest of the tones and shades work so well together.
“I love the colors and the application of paint,” said Barry Morange, an Art Education major at RIC. “I really enjoy the color combinations.”
“I find myself just wanting to study them and just not walk by,” said Carol Rodi, a painting student also at RIC. “They’re mysterious.”
On the other hand I found myself only really lingering on the other artist’s work for a few seconds at a time. It had some moments that I felt were engaging, but nothing that really held my attention. Many students at the gal- lery were left confused and dissatisfied with her artwork, and were not really impressed with the artist regardless of her reputation.
Despite student reaction to the work, The Boston Globe described McCoy’s work as, “a sensual sigh in the midst of a quiet work,” and that the, “uniform backgrounds don’t only conjure silence; they suggest propriety which makes her marks renegade. That’s why they thrill.” McCoy’s paintings feature a solid colored panel with a very minimal amount of marks, some with as little as only one or two shapes, lines or blobs on them. These lines or blobs are very interesting, and many come off the panel in a three-dimensional way. The work, I felt, had really cool moments, but overall, seemed similar to what a kid playing with the Windows 98 version of Paint could create.
One of the few pieces I really enjoyed of hers was presented on a white panel with two purple oval dots that built up on the panel similar to if someone blobbed a perfect shape of paint onto it. Then, one of the dots has almost a washed out effect and drips off the page, looking like a bullet pierced her painting and it was bleeding. On the other hand, one I really disliked featured dull greys and blues that you would see in a public restroom. One of the shapes even reminded me of a urinal.
McCoy explained her processes as starting with one panel, and moving onto the next, having multiple paint- ings going at once, but going back and adding to each of them.
“I’ll make one mark and just live with that for a while,”said McCoy .
She explained that she used indirect influences, such as the time she spent in the woods, to create her pieces.
“I’ve spent time absorbing nature,” said McCoy.
She also added that originally she was a ceramics artist, and she treats painting similar to the way she handles clay.
Her work, she describes invites the viewer into an ex- perimental dialogue between interior and exterior spaces and privileges intimacy over spectacle. He work certainly wasn’t too spectacular, but if you were supposed to have an intimate experience with them, I personally wasn’t seeing it.