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Art turned on its head at McGowan gallery

  •  Watercolors go on paper. Printmaking too, is a paper enterprise. That’s it, end of story. Unless you’ve met artists Shandra McLane and Susan Wahlrab. When it comes to these two renegades, it’s an art world upside down. In their exhibit, “Breaking the

    Watercolors go on paper. Printmaking too, is a paper enterprise. That’s it, end of story. Unless you’ve met artists Shandra McLane and Susan Wahlrab. When it comes to these two renegades, it’s an art world upside down. In their exhibit, “Breaking the

  •  Watercolors go on paper. Printmaking too, is a paper enterprise. That’s it, end of story. Unless you’ve met artists Shandra McLane and Susan Wahlrab. When it comes to these two renegades, it’s an art world upside down. In their exhibit, “Breaking the

Watercolors go on paper. Printmaking too, is a paper enterprise. That’s it, end of story. Unless you’ve met artists Shandra McLane and Susan Wahlrab.

When it comes to these two renegades, it’s an art world upside down.

In their exhibit, “Breaking the Mold” at McGowan Fine Art, Wahlrab features her watercolor on Claybord, while McLane shows off her prints on glass.

While getting her master’s degree in fine arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, Wahlrab did washes on limestone in a process called lithography as well as a variety of etching work. Once she graduated, she started experimenting, combing a variety of techniques, trying to make something of her own.

One of the results is her work on Claybord. From far away, Wahlrab’s work takes on the look of a traditional oil painting. However, move in, and it’s a different story.

“When you get up close it’s very contemporary,” Wahrab said. “The surface is very fascinating and almost becomes abstract. But just like nature, what I’m painting is nature, from a distance, what you see are trees and the landscape, but when we get up close it breaks up into color and texture, and that’s what’s happening in these paintings.” To achieve this look, she heavily layers the watercolors on the Claybord, which is a very hard clay surface. Wahlrab also uses watercolor pencils on the material, which allows her to make deep grooves and gouges giving the piece a textural feel.

“It’s like this big full circle has happened,” Wahlrab said. “I’m able to use all of the techniques I’ve learned in the last 35 years of experience. It’s all coming together.”

And instead of having to hide the work behind a shiny pane of glass, she varnishes the finished product.

As for her compositions, officials at McGowan describe them as, “filled with streams of sunlight that twist through entanglements of flora and rushing water, and come to rest just beyond reach.” They go on to say that her compositions at times appear “almost abstract, with swirling lines and heightened colors.”

McLane, originally from California, started in printmaking but ended up studying glass making at the world-renowned Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State. Asked to be the printshop coordinator there, McLane started combining printmaking with glass in a process called Vitreagraphy.

To achieve the distinctive look of her work, her designs are fused together as one

pane of glass. The whole pane is placed on top of a hollow form in a kiln for about 30 hours and allowed to slump into a bowl form.

The corners are then cut off to complete the bowl and sandblasted to give the surface a matte finish, McGowan officials said.

McLane’s work is luminous. Her designs are bold, with vessels often featuring one design and a completely different design on the outside.

“The color is heightened in the translucent vessels when light comes through, giving a hint of pattern on the other side,” officials said.

In recent years, McLane said she has started to further experiment with silk screening, enamels and fired on processes.

“I like it because I can spend more time working on my design, “ McLane said. “I feel like it’s a really untouched field. So there are just so many different techniques to be explored that are untapped, and it’s just a lot of fun.”

(The show runs until Dec. 14. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment. The gallery is closed Christmas Day and the day after, New Year’s Day and occasionally during inclement weather. The gallery is located at 10 Hills Ave. in Concord. For more information, call 225-2515, email art@mcgowanfineart.com or visit mcgowanfineart.com.)

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