Art Watch: Songbirds and cupcakes

By Lele Galer, Columnist, The Times

For the last weekend in April, make sure to check out local galleries around town that will be taking down their April shows at the end of the week. This week I am highlighting the April show of Gallery 222 in Malvern, but there are also terrific shows now all over our area that are too numerable to list, that are all closing this weekend in preparation for First Friday openings of exciting new shows in May.

Gallery 222, located at 222 King Street in Malvern, will be closing their April show on April 29th. The April show features the works of artists Nancy Bea Miller, Jan Wier and Jeremy McGirl. The primary large gallery space is filled with the still life paintings of popular artist and PAFA graduate Nancy Bea Miller. Most of her images are small paintings that feature still life set-ups of everyday foods, pretzels, cupcakes, coffee and eggs.

I particularly liked her use of turquoise in the cups or backgrounds, which brings to mind Northern Renaissance portraiture..clean, cool depiction, but objects that are lovingly chosen. Looking up and down the gallery you will see many “red dots” which indicate that the pieces are sold, but are still some unsold gems like “Hugh’s Breakfast”, “One Coconut Cupcake” and “Shy Flower.”

Bird of Paradise and Forsythias by Jeremy McGirl.

The second gallery is smaller, but a perfect venue for PAFA graduate, artist and art educator Jeremy McGirl. Jeremy uses collage, paint, cut-outs, photo-transfer and primarily drawing to create his images of birds, nests, and memories. The main wall is full of his tenderly drawn birds. He uses graphite on ivory paper, which he cuts and places on a white background. The birds are lovely and have an old fashioned quality of detailed realism to them that Jeremy contemporizes by rather spontaneously snipping away at the background of these things that he has taken so much time to create.

The result is that the bird drawings are both beautiful and slightly goofy- which is a very endearing quality of all of Jeremy’s art work. I own four of his drawings and I love them! He doesn’t do gallery shows a lot due to his teaching schedule, so it is a particular pleasure to see him here at Gallery 222. His newest work is a collaged multi-panel construction that interlaces a painting of a toddler boy’s jacket, a bird of paradise flower, and a television or window image that contains a bright red cardinal in front of a wide landscape expanse with a meandering river. He places layers of cutout reeds atop the spaces. At times the cutouts are layered so densely that they resemble a nest. The imagery seems to speak to rearing children, joy, life’s journey, nature and all in all, a sense of paradise. This work is entitled “Bird of Paradise with Forsythia” and it is still available.

Vanilla buttercream by Jan Wier.

The third even smaller gallery space at 222 is occupied by the loose, impressionistic paintings of artist Jan Wier. Her paintings have a light touch, lovely colors and a joyful sense to them. Unlike a lot of contemporary impressionistic painters, Jan pays individual attention to each item in the scene, instead of making everything all beat to the same decorative rhythm. For me, her cupcake paintings are the stand-out. I don’t even like cupcakes, and I wanted to purchase one! The “Pink Buttercream on Damask Ground” or Vanilla Buttercream on Cupid Toile” are beautiful small paintings, modestly priced at $375 each.

Gallery 222 owner Andrea Strang puts a lot of effort into each of the artists that she chooses every month. She personally goes to each artist’s studio to select the works for the show, publishes artist’s biographies on the gallery website, makes short Utube/Facebook films interviewing each artist, and has a once-a-month artist talk which is open to the public and has an open bar and inviting kitchen. This past artist discussion was packed “shoulder to shoulder” exclaimed Andrea, “what a fun group!” Gallery 222 has three separate exhibition spaces, as well as an outdoor sculpture garden and onsite studio spaces for working artists. Currently, artist Randall Graham is painting and teaching out of one of the studio spaces. The gallery is also frequently rented out for parties and other events, and the outside sculpture garden will be a great place to hang out this summer. Gallery 222 is located in a charming older clapboard house that contains a light-filled, airy, inviting set of gallery spaces. Andrea magically is able to provide a white streamlined space to show artwork, but still manages to make it cozy and friendly. For the month of May, opening reception May 4 from 5:30-8:30, Gallery 222 will show artists Luba Caruso, Kristy Gilfillan and Denise Sedor.

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