The first thing I notice walking into Historic Northampton’s gallery on Bridge Street (besides how interesting the 1800s home is) is that my interpretation of the show’s title is wrong.
The exhibit, Laws Change. People Die. The Land Remains, is a collection of landscape art by five local artists and curated by Sally Curcio and Anne LaPrade Seuthe. The show name is taken from an Abraham Lincoln quote that is cherished by nature-lovers.
“But the land doesn’t remain,” I think to myself surveying the room full of local landscapes from past to present to future. “The land evolves.”
And it remains, though not the same as before. “Remaining” isn’t the same thing as never-changing; in fact, this exhibit suggests it’s the opposite. I love how a room full of well-selected art can turn around your thinking.
I also really enjoyed the show.
Featuring works by Curcio and LaPrade Seuthe, as well as Karen Evans, Jenny Tibbetts, and Jesse Connor, Laws Change. People Die. The Land Remains takes the viewer on a trip through time in the Pioneer Valley. Themes of stillness, solitude, and hope are carried throughout the exhibit, which includes only one painting with people and animals — a mural called, “River Settlement,” that has fun playing with time and perspective.
The show begins with Laprade Seuthe’s paintings: a set of four serene scenes from a Quabbin-like area. The paintings are
small and tight, with a hopeful glow that stretches over fields, hills, ponds, and forests. It is unclear if the paintings are supposed to be depicting sunset or sunrise; either way celestial action is apparent, while back down on Earth, everything is incredibly still.
Next up are some paintings by Evans. She uses wide, confident brush strokes to paint pictures of familiar Valley scenes focusing on nature and old buildings. Though there are no animals or people in her paintings, they feel lively, especially when Evans allows herself to have some fun with shadows. In her painting “West Farms Road,” Evans depicts a large, white barn-type church from the 1800s casting a long shadow across the road that is imposing at first, but in context, you can see it’s rather small.
Jenny Tibbetts’ additions to the show also depict familiar places in Northampton, but unlike Evans, she paints more modern buildings and places. Tibbetts uses wide brush strokes and a pastel color pallete that gives her paintings a signature look. Paintings of Joe’s and Gleason’s rely on ginning up feelings of nostalgia for those businesses rather than imparting emotions of their own.
Connor’s “River Settlement” mural is a treat for the eyes. The approximately six-foot wide painting gives the viewer the vantage point of a camper on a craggy ledge. It overlooks a lively river with white caps and tropical-looking leafy plants blowing in the wind. It appears to be a scene from the ’60s. Clues include a fishing basket trap, radio, and cars parked in far off garages. But really, life on the river could be from any time when people came to the water to work and relax. “River Settlement” is at the heart of the exhibit and breaks the themes the other pieces follow: in his painting, there is no stillness, the winds whip, and people are busy everywhere — except for at an artist’s deserted camp site.
The show wraps up with a futuristic 3-D landscape by Curcio. Under a plastic
bubble, Curcio has created a world made out of bright pinks and sparkly glass towers high above a landscape buried under s
now. It looks like Dubai or maybe Vegas. It is hopeful and celebratory and utilizes common household items as building materials: hair curlers, pins, lace, beads, and ear bud covers, for example. Curcio has a second piece in the show — a green landscape — that was unavailable the day I visited, but I’m thinking I may pop in to check it out while on lunch in downtown Northampton sometime this week.
Laws Change. People Die. The Land Remains: Featuring Jenny Tibbetts, Anne LaPrade Seuthe, Sally Curcio, Jesse Connor, and Karen Evans. Through June 4. Free; donations appreciated. Historic Northampton, 46 Bridge St., Northampton (413) 584-6011, firstname.lastname@example.org, historicnorthampton.org.
Contact Kristin Palpini at email@example.com.