Art Watch: Group Invitational Exhibit

By Lele Galer, Columnist, The Times

UTColLogoGalerNine specially selected artists unite in Church Street Gallery’s first Group Invitational exhibit, opening this Friday July 8th at 5pm at 12 South Church Street in West Chester. Painters include Robert Bohne, Polly Davis Chalfant, Terry DeAngelo, Monique Lazard, John Murray, Sandra Severson, John Suplee, Jessica Turgoose, and an intimate solo exhibition in the rear gallery of abstract works by Maxine Manges. Most of these artists’ names are recognizable, and all but three have had solo shows at Church Street Gallery in the past two years. It is exciting to see fresh examples of these artist’s works and delightful to see such diverse styles complement one another.

Cape May Victorians by Jessica Turgoose.

Cape May Victorians by Jessica Turgoose.

Group shows are always interesting events because when they are hung well, the artworks start to relate to one another in unexpected ways. When I asked the owner Carol Gilpin and her husband artist John Suplee what commonality was shared by the chosen painters, they said “Quality, always quality.” “Quality” may sound like a very subjective point of reference, but in the hands of Carol Gilpin and John Suplee, this nebulous concept becomes almost palpable. They definitely know what they are doing, and it shows in every exhibition that they select, frame and hang on display in their small gallery in West Chester.

If you were fortunate enough to see June’s exhibit in Church Street Gallery of artist Martin Campos, you would have been struck by the concept of quality, and originality. Almost everything sold from that show, and sales were still continuing as the proprietors were taking the show off the walls! We can only hope that Martin Campos will show again soon, somewhere nearby. Church Street Gallery acts as a thumbnail, placing artists that they revere on our visual map. Most of the artists that they show are not new to the area, but usually they show so seldom that our attention draws away from them; Church Street Gallery brings our attention back and leaves us wanting more.

The Church Street Gallery Summer Group Invitational extends through August, and you should check on the website to verify what hours they will be open during these summer months. After the opening this Friday, they are hoping to do one or more “Artist Conversations” with informal questions and answers with the selected artists.

"She packed a basket of his favorite things" by Polly Davis-Challfont.

“She packed a basket of his favorite things” by Polly Davis Chalfant.

In the show there is a mix of pastel, acrylic, mixed media and oil paintings. There is abstraction, like the work of Maxine Manges, and images of forests, beaches, dogs and imaginative tales like those from Polly Davis Chalfant. Polly’s work is usually very small, but John and Carol urged her to “Go big!” which means about 7″ x 10″.

Making her images larger, we can see more of her prowess as a painter, as well as story teller. She starts her images by making rubbings that turn into creatures, whimsical and slightly devilish, and places them in a painterly background that creates an environment for a story: Charming, a bit ghoulish, and delightful all at the same time. Then we have Jessica Turgoose, who is master of pastel, whose “Cape May Victorians” John Suplee flatly states is “the best picture of Cape May that I have ever seen.” Paintings by naturalist painter Terry DeAngelo are also on display. Terry’s work has a quiet, private beauty to them, where even the most innocuous inanimate objects have a poetry to them. I own one of his paintings of a humble broom, and I cherish it.

Also included in the show is Robert Bohne who has large and small tonalist landscapes that are simply perfect. They hark back to the 1930s era of atmospheric landscape painting that spares us of naturalistic detail to obtain an overall hazy atmosphere that accentuates mood. Robert’s “Twin Pines” were recently on exhibit in the Wayne Art Center’s celebrated Plein Air Show. John Suplee has also included some of his newest artworks, including “Trumpet Voluntary”, an acrylic painted impressionist rendition of orange colored trumpet vines that make you feel like walking right into that magical garden space. Whenever John uses that orange it is like a wake-up call to a spot of beauty in an outdoor environment. The places that he paints always mean something personal to him, and it shows the more you look at his works.

"Shy" by Sandra Severson.

“Shy” by Sandra Severson.

One of the strongest paintings of the exhibit is “Shy” by Sandra Severson, featuring an image of a Jack Russell from her series “Dogs at the Door.” She also has a magnificent cow painting. Her animal paintings are not cute, they are beautifully painted with a not overly sentimental brush that brings out the individual character of the animal. You can see more of her animal paintings on her website,, but I have to say, they are much better paintings in person.

Check out the opening of the Church Street Gallery’s first Group Invitational Art show this Friday at 5pm, and then walk around the block to the last week of The Art Trust’s Chester County Studio Tour exhibit at The Meridian Bank.


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