(WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass.) – The Harrison Gallery will present a show of fine art by three modern American Masters – Hale Johnson, John C. Traynor and Brother Thomas Bezanson – from December 3 through December 31, 2011. An opening reception will be held at the gallery on Saturday, December 3 from 5 to 7 pm.
When Hale Johnson paints a landscape it often includes a weathered old building that seems to have dropped out of the past and sits like a boulder on the land — standing proud and alone as time wears away its glory. John C. Traynor’s paintings, on the other hand, crackle with the flow of life, the bloom of flowers and a palpable sense of atmosphere. Brother Thomas, the Benedictine monk who died nearly five years ago, created pottery that inspires on both a spiritual as well as aesthetic level.
Johnson’s paintings of worn out barns and empty farmhouses perched on vast horizons exude an eerie stillness. No breeze moves the grass. No birds fly around the cupola and there are no living souls in sight. Looming over this quiet serenity is a sky full of drama. Sometimes it’s a foreboding black sky that threatens to explode into thunder and lightning. Sometimes it’s a more benign sky with high billowing white clouds streaked with red and orange from a rising or setting sun. The juxtaposition of these elements – the vulnerable, ephemeral man-made structures against the backdrop of raw and eternal nature – give Johnson’s paintings their awesome power. Johnson says he paints pictures of solitude, not loneliness. ”There can be joy and pleasure in solitude, “ he says, “but loneliness is a sad thing.” Johnson, mostly self taught, lives in the bucolic town of Colrain in Central Massachusetts.
Traynor’s paintings are often compared to 19th century masters and are reminiscent of Dutch art of the period. With a deft stroke and vivid palette, Traynor manipulates light, shade and color to produce landscapes, still lifes and portraits that flirt between realism and impressionism. His distinctive style, using mosaic-like patches of thick and lush brush strokes gives his work a strong charge of emotion. His paintings – bold, visceral and full of energy – look spontaneous. They’re uncomplicated and connect instantly with the viewer.
Painting since he was 16 years old, Traynor got his schooling at the Paier College of Art in New Haven and the Art Students League in New York. He is not only a member of the prestigious Salmagundi Club in New York but has received that Club’s Medal of Honor and Merit. Two years ago, the club purchased a Traynor painting for its permanent collection. Traynor, a footloose artist, has made more than a dozen painting expeditions to Ireland, Belgium, France and Italy. In his formative years he studied art and sculpture in Florence. He now lives in Southern New Hampshire where he enjoys painting the New England landscape.
Both artists are masters of the old school – one evokes melancholy through scenes of solitude while the other captures contemporary life in all its vibrant moods and emotions.
For Brother Thomas Bezanson, pottery making was a form of prayer. And the spiritual input in his works gives them an ethereal quality that sets them apart from conventional ceramics. With his superb shapes, elegant glazes and rich colors, Brother Thomas created pottery that was as near perfection as a potter could get working with such unpredictable elements. For every 1,200 ceramics he made he destroyed 1,100 for their perceived flaws. From luminous celadons to cracked white and black glazes covered with gold and yellow rivulets, each work is unique. His body of work – created over a fifty year span — includes classic urns, pilgrim canteens, tea bowls and decorative plates.
Brother Thomas, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1950 and spent twenty-five years as a monastic in the Benedictine Monastery of Weston Priory in Weston, Vt. He left behind an enduring collection of treasures that honor the spirit of man as well as the spirit and talent of the artist.
The Harrison Gallery is located at 39 Spring Street in Williamstown, Mass. Gallery hours are Monday – Saturday, 10 am to 5:30 pm, Sunday 11 am to 4 pm. For further information contact The Harrison Gallery at 413.458.1700 or visit The Harrison Gallery.