Art: At Noyes, how 2 artists see the light
Glenn Rudderow, Nancy Depew explore the gleam in different ways: Effusive, shaded.
By Edward Sozanski, Contributing Art Critic
July 24, 2011
Let there be light, God reportedly intoned.
If only it were that simple for painters. They've been wrestling with light for centuries, trying to replicate the luminous manifestation of creation.
And if you examine the broad sweep of art history, you'll find that in the main, painters have done an impressive job of representing "light," usually with opaque pigments.
Yet their labors will never be finished, because besides being eternal, light is elusive, chameleonlike. And so painters persist in anatomizing its complexities.
A complementary pair of solo exhibitions at the Noyes Museum of Art in Oceanville, N.J., highlight this perpetual challenge through dramatic opposition of approaches.
In one gallery, Glenn Rudderow tries to re-create effects of light on, and over, water in a time-honored way that Joseph M.W. Turner would have recognized and applauded.
In another, Nancy Depew squeezes patches of light out of the penumbral gloom of deep woods. For her, light is less a glorious effusion, as it is for Rudderow, than tiny pools of attenuated energy immersed in shadow.
This conjunction of opposites is especially apt at the Noyes, which is situated in an environment saturated by light reflected off the nearby Atlantic Ocean, the marsh of the adjacent national wildlife refuge, and picturesque Lily Lake, which the museum overlooks...
Moving from Rudderow's roseate sunsets into Nancy Depew's "forest-scapes" is a bit of a jolt, like traveling from somewhere over the rainbow to Robert Frost's woods that are "lovely, dark and deep."
Depew's woodsy landscapes might remind you of those by Neil Welliver, who taught for many years at the University of Pennsylvania. He took viewers deep into second-growth Maine woods defined by dappled sunlight and tangled scrims of branches and foliage.
Depew does the same, although her woods are as crepuscular as a clothes closet. After one's eyes adjust, one can pick out trickling rivulets, stones, patches of moss, ferns, and logs, all softly bathed in light that filters through the dense canopy.
These landscapes, like Welliver's, are close-up portraits, not expansive views, but they're considerably more contemplative, like still lifes.
The dim light is exaggerated for dramatic effect, but Depew's meticulously realistic rendering of nature at its most ordinary achieves its purpose, which is to draw attention to the lyrical beauty of forest nooks and crannies.
Given that Depew lives in Plainfield, N.J., in the New York metropolitan area, one wonders where she finds such bosky hideaways.
She calls attention to them in another way, with simple, evocative titles such as Weight, Whisper, and Tangle. Her visual poetry achieves an apotheosis with Momentum, a scene of moss-covered rocks around a shallow pool that is as mysterious as it is alluring.
Depew's show also includes several oils that are more properly still lifes than landscapes, such as a single stalk of iris against a black ground, and Reminder, a blasted tree in isolation suffused in soft light. These are neatly complemented by two exquisite charcoal drawings of tree trunks in which light is deployed more evenly and naturally.
Moving from one show to the other, in either direction, provides a pointed lesson in how fundamental light is to all kinds of painting, even abstraction. Rarely will one find such strongly contrasting philosophies of how to engage light so conveniently juxtaposed.
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