August 22, 2008
History of Working Folks is an Art Show to Behold Art Beat
The history of a working people is immortalized in the art of William Hall . The painter is showing a body of work with fellow Rhode Island School of Design professor Kenn Speiser at Greenleaf Gallery in Duck through August.
Hall grew up in the Northeast and spent his summers at his father's ancestral home on Block Island in Rhode Island. He absorbed what he calls the nonheroic activities of the hardworking people there who fished for a living. His watercolor and oil scenes have a Winslow Homer feel with rolling seas, dories, sailboats and people absorbed in day-to-day life.
Hall spent his time as a boy harpooning swordfish and dory fishing. His deft painting brings to life the natural beauty of the island folk. Scenes include islanders scavenging lumber from sea and shore, pushing cargo and tossing rope from huge work boats, hoisting a massive swordfish into a small vessel and the affects of an oncoming squall.
Hall paints in both oil and watercolor, with his techniques varying slightly within those mediums. Some oils appear as washes where the white of the canvas and the stroke of the brush form the elements in his scene. Other oils have a more dense approach to paint application.
His painting feels egoless with no fanfare, but presents the necessary relationship of islanders with nature. Within this relationship, Hall's sensitive brushstrokes also deliver the humanity of the island's people.
His watercolors generally use minimal detail to form amazing gestures - a relaxed man staring out of a ferry boat window, the pull on a dory or stroke of an oar, swells, wakes and fat clouds resting on a distant horizon.
While it is not uncommon to see water-related images on the Outer Banks, it is exciting to see the difference in how an artist uses color to form a northern climate as opposed to southern or tropical. Hall's cooler palette is as beautiful as his strokes and his attachment to his youth.
Kenn Speiser, who joins Hall in the exhibit, is a printmaker who uses the rusting process to generate monoprints of butterfly wings. His intellectual approach to art is fascinating. In an artist statement, he discusses the multitude of butterfly species that exist and explains that on rare occasions, a specimen comes along that is outside these some 20,000 species. It is named a "sport."
Departing from this idea, Speiser works with cardboard building material nailed to steel wire shaped like a butterfly wing. He sprays the wire with water and waits for it to form a good rust. Speiser then uses wet rag paper and a printing process to create an image of wings. He, in essence, creates his own one-of-a-kind sport using iron oxide, which is chemically stable and light fast.
"Time, metal, moisture, paper and pressure are the five variables that affect the final look of each print," he explains in his statement.
Speiser also shows two oil-stick stencil prints. The images have a Dick and Jane illustrative appearance. One even features a young girl and boy washing up and brushing their teeth at the sink. Though the approach is completely different, Speiser, like Hall, is adept in using spare marks to define form, light and space.
This is a show that will appeal to a broad audience, from those enamored with the sea, watercolor, history and overall artistic excellence, to art that has an intellectual, scientific and philosophic approach to life. It is one of the best shows of the summer season.
Who William Hall and Kenn Speiser , Rhode Island School of Design professors, art exhibition.
What Painting and printmaking
Where Greenleaf Gallery, 1169 Duck Road (N.C. 12), Duck, 261- 2009
When 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, through Aug. 31
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