“I want the painting to be about a specific subject and about what is going on in my brain - intuition, feeling, judgment, memory. Avoid past ideas at all costs. Invent an equivalent without premeditation.”
~ Martha Armstrong
Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to announce a major solo exhibition of new paintings by gallery artist, Martha Armstrong.
Armstrong’s muscular shapes and energetic compositions are hers alone to claim – a style that she’s developed and faithfully preserved over many decades. Her work harkens back to early American Modernists like Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove and contemporary artists like Lois Dodd and Richard Diebenkorn. One can also see the influence of European movements such as Cubism and Fauvism.
An observational painter, Armstrong repeatedly returns to familiar subject matter, although each painting boasts its own content or, as the artist states, its own “intuition, feeling, judgment and memory”. Armstrong has been painting at the window of her Vermont studio for many years, never tiring of the opportunity to record the changing light and seasons with new eyes. As Roberta Smith, Critic for the New York Times, said in a review of Armstrong’s 2015 show at the Bowery Gallery, “At once improvisational and carefully carpentered, these paintings explode toward the eye, like nature on first sight, at its most welcoming and irrepressible.”
In addition to the landscapes, the current exhibition will feature a selection of still-life paintings, subject matter which Armstrong has long-explored but rarely displayed.
Born in 1940, Martha Armstrong has had an extensive and noteworthy painting career. She is a 1962 graduate of Smith College, and received a Master’s Degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1963. Armstrong has taught at the Kansas City Art Institute, Smith, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and Indiana University in Bloomington, among others. She has exhibited regionally and nationally and is in the permanent collections of The Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and many other public and private collections across the country. Armstrong has exhibited at Gross McCleaf Gallery regularly since 1974.
“My recent body of work explores the idea of liminality, of being suspended in between, or simultaneously on both sides of a threshold, place, idea, or category. Many feelings come along with this state of being, including uncertainty, displacement and isolation, but also autonomy and peace.”
~ Nicole Parker
Nicole Parker’s oil paintings depict images that are on the verge of dreaming and wakefulness. The pictures are recognizable yet tend to drift into the uncanny valley – where what one sees looks to be natural and realistic but then morphs into a phantasmagoria of enigmatic imagery. Parker’s worlds contain houses, rooms, and vehicles that allude to a world made for humans, yet there are no people to be found. Rather, these spaces subtly summon the viewer to become the lone inhabitant of each scene.
Parker’s paintings are portals that allow a viewer to travel through conceptual thresholds into surrogate realities. One might find herself suspended on a subway ride between two unknown locations, or encountering a quiet scene during a time of day that appears to be both dusk and dawn. Subtle details take on significance such as the mysterious glow behind a window in Wee Hours or the looming shadow in the foreground of Untitled 2 that implies an object is hovering somewhere behind the viewer. In Skaftafell, a small trailer sits quietly in a field. A dog stares back from the darkened windows. In this case, the viewer may be enticed into considering the who, why and where of what is being observed. Or she may simply get carried away into an immersive, hypnotic and utterly alternative experience.
Nicole Parker received her BFA and Certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in 2018. During her time at PAFA, she was a recipient of the Richard C. Von Hess Memorial Travel Scholarship, which allowed her a month of travel in Germany, the United Kingdom and Iceland to explore individual artistic pursuits of her choosing. Nicole has also enjoyed making work and learning from other artists at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsville, Maryland, where she was previously an Artist in Residence, and is now a Printmaking Associate. She has exhibited her paintings and prints in numerous group exhibitions along the East Coast, including in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York. She currently lives and practices in Maryland with her partner and their animals, a cat and a rat. Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to host Parker’s first solo exhibition in Philadelphia.