September 1 – October 1, 2021
Curators: Amanda Case Millis & Laura Vahlberg
Amanda Case Millis
|“There is nothing more surreal, nothing more abstract than reality.”
The words and work of the 20th Century painter Giorgio Morandi are relevant today as our individual and collective reality has been redefined over the past year and a half.
Morandi lived a solitary life; he created hundreds of still life paintings of mundane objects, constantly rearranging them, resulting in images that emit a sense of magical stillness. Similarly, in the landscape Morandi distilled what he saw into compelling compositions. Morandi painted what he observed, synthesized with his own sense of abstraction.
Amanda Case Millis and Laura Vahlberg have chosen artists who are pushing the idea of examining and elevating the mundane. The show reviews the artistic experience when painting subjects close at hand becomes a necessity. It celebrates the continued influence of Morandi and the interpretation of seen reality in the everyday through painting.
Beth Bernhardt – Nantes, France
Bernhardt is a graduate of Yale University and holds an MFA from Boston University. After her studies she spent a year in Jerusalem as an artist in residence at the Jerusalem Studio School and has returned often as a guest artist. She works primarily from the landscape, often en plein air. Attention to color and its temperature as well as the economy of stroke are the hallmarks of her work. For her, the overall sense of atmosphere takes precedence over the formulation of individual elements as she strives to paint the world as a total experience and not as the sum of its parts. Working often on several iterations of the same subject, she explores minor variations such as the shift in point of view or more radical changes such as altering light and shadow. More of her paintings can be viewed on Instagram:@bethbernhardtpainter.
Alex Cohen – Newtown, Pennsylvania
Cohen is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the University of Pennsylvania. He produces the invitational exhibition, Art at Kings Oaks, with his partner, Clara Weishahn. Alex works both from life and invention. The quality of uncanniness one might feel in his subjects is also the compass by which he predominantly navigates. The sense that what is strange feels familiar and what is familiar seems strange is the result of finding the visual rules by which the painting and subject agree.
Zoey Frank – Fort Collins, CO
Frank received her MFA in painting from Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach, California after completing atelier training at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle, Washington. She has received three Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grants and many other prizes. Zoey uses still life to explore the formal aspects of painting. She explores the passage of time by allowing the objects and figures she is observing to shift in ways both subtle and dramatic as her paintings move from inception to completion. Allowing the remnants of these changes to remain visible on the surface of her finished paintings creates textured and intimately observed glimpses into contemporary life.
Ulrich Gleiter – Munich, Germany and in Saint Petersburg, Russia
Gleiter completed his undergraduate study at Dresden Academy of Arts and later transferred to Repin Academy in Saint Petersburg. He has received numerous awards in plein air events and has been a juror for plein air and international art competitions. Gleiter’s works are primarily landscapes created en plein air and on location. Before he developed his love for painting, he felt an urge to photographically capture the places he visited. Ever since he began his studies in Dresden and Saint Petersburg, Ulrich has been painting outside in the play of light which became his ever-repeating subject. His work is about finding paintings in the world around him and creating something that reflects his presence and feelings. Ulrich’s work can be found at Gallery 1261 (Denver, CO), Gallery Sandau&Leo (Berlin, Germany), Gallery Helle Coppi (Berlin, Germany), Manitou Galleries (Santa Fe, NM), on Instagram @ulrichgleiter
Chris Liberti – Charlotte, NC
Liberti studied fine arts & urban planning at Buffalo State College and lived in NYC from 1999 – 2007 while also working as a decorative painter. In his work, Chris is curious how a moment can be enveloped in atmosphere. He is searching for only the essentials that can illustrate both an abstract and tangible sentiment. Each painting is an accumulation of buried ideas, trials, and errors. Over the years he has come to acknowledge that the painting will get “there”… (eventually), but not without a certain amount of madness. You can see more of his work at www.chrisliberti.com. He is represented by Blue Spiral 1 Gallery (Asheville, NC), Meibohm Fine Arts (Aurora, NY), John Natsoulas Gallery (Davis, CA), Thomas Deans Fine Art Gallery (Atlanta, GA).
Amanda Case Millis – Boston, MA
Millis is a perceptual painter who is inspired by place. She received her MFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and a BA from Smith College. She has been awarded several painting residencies and her work has been recognized in exhibitions throughout the US and Australia. Amanda is fascinated by the process of understanding herself and surroundings through painting. For her, painting is a responsive and mindful act of presence. Her aim is to find a new reality in each painting through a language of shape and color. Amanda’s work can be found on her website and Instagram: @amandacmillis
Tessa Greene O’Brien – South Portland, Maine
O’Brien received her MFA from Maine College of Art, her BS from Skidmore College. She is currently a co-director at Able Baker Contemporary gallery in Portland, ME. She has received numerous residency awards, grants, and prizes. Tessa makes paintings that describe her experience and memory of places. Observing her surroundings is a constant exercise for her – it brings her joy and fascination. Through the act of painting, she is conveying a sense of place, playing with depth and flatness, and understanding how visual space can reflect psychological space. Tessa is represented by Dowling Walsh Gallery & Elizabeth Moss Galleries.
Anh Nguyen – NSW South Coast, Australia
Nguyen has been a finalist in numerous art prizes and was the recipient of the Lyn McCrea Memorial Drawing Prize and the Basil Sellers Art Prize. Her paintings are a response to the visual excitement found in life; motifs revolve around daily rhythms, human activity, and small moments. She is interested in finding the space between observational painting, more abstract work, and invention. More of her work can be found on her website and on Instagram: @msanhpaints
Mitchell Johnson – San Francisco, CA
Johnson moved to the Bay Area in 1990 after finishing his MFA at Parsons in New York where he studied with many former students of Hans Hofmann. He is an American Academy in Rome Visiting Artist (2015) and a Josef and Anni Albers Foundation Artist in Residence (2007). Furthermore, he is the subject of the monograph Color as Content and the documentary film The Artist of Silicon Valley. Johnson’s color- and shape-driven paintings are known for their personal approach to color. They have been exhibited in Milan (Ca di Fra), New York (Tatistcheff), San Francisco (Campbell-Thiebaud), and Los Angeles (Terrence Rogers Fine Art). Johnson divides his time between his favorite painting locations in Europe, New England, New York City, Asia and California. His paintings are in the collections of 28 museums and over 600 private collections. You can see more of his work on his website or on instagram @mitchell_johnson_artist.
John Lee – Williamsburg, Virginia
Lee completed the certificate program at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, received his BFA from the University of Pennsylvania, his MFA from the University of Indiana and teaches at William & Mary. He is a former member of the Zeuxis Still Life Association, has shown recently with the Midwest Paint Group, and had a solo show at First Street Gallery in 2019. He works from direct observation, inspired by the colors in shadowy spaces and dull, translucent forms. He is interested in expressing both a sense of hefty weightiness and a sense of diffuse fragility. His paintings strive to combine the feeling of pressures and the gravity of architectural planes with the airy diffuse quality of the color, light, shadows, and reflections.
Loraine Stephanson – Okanagan-Similkameen, British Columbia
Stephanson received an MFA from the University of Alberta, with theses in painting and art history. University studies in the modernist/formalist tradition, workshops at Triangle New York, summer painting sessions at Emma Lake in Saskatchewan, and a year spent drawing artifacts for archaeological excavations in Italy have all influenced the development of her small-scale paintings. Loraine Stephanson’s local area is replete with lakes, mountains, agricultural land, and small rural communities. As evidence of increasing human habitation in the region’s natural landscape, her paintings often feature elements such as roads, buildings, fences, and power lines. You can find Loraine’s work on her website and on Instagram @lorainestephansonart.
Laura Vahlberg – Roanoke, Virginia
Vahlberg’s work is about the everyday and mundane within the context of formal abstraction. She works on site in front of the motif, nature acting as both reference material and active contributor. Atmosphere as well as an abstract experience of light are forces utilized to create familiar moments indoors and out in the landscape. Laura Vahlberg’s oil paintings can be found on her website, on Instagram @lauravahlberg, and at Reynolds Gallery in Richmond, VA.
Amanda Case Millis – Boston, MA
Laura Vahlberg – Roanoke, Virginia
When oil painters and curators Laura Vahlberg and Amanda Case Millis both attended the Virginia Center for Creative Arts artist residency program in 2020 they became fast friends, learning that they shared similar ideas about and passion for painting. They soon realized that they coincidentally both went to Cape Cod, Massachusetts every summer just down the street from one another. The following summer they painted together on the Cape and met with artist Mitchell Johnson who spoke about Joseph Albers and how colors behave and interact with one another. The discussion and a quote from Giorgio Morandi; “There is nothing more surreal, nothing more abstract than reality” serve as the springboard for the exhibition “Magic Stillness” which includes work from a group of dedicated painters who paint in the spirit of Morandi, pushing the idea of examining and elevating the mundane while painting in such a way that abstraction and representation are in fascinating agreement.