(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Panoptica, an exhibition of whimsical, Dali-esque oil paintings by Ann Getsinger, opens on Friday, January 27, 2012, at the new Hillman-Jackson Gallery located in the Daniel Arts Center at Simon’s Rock College. An opening reception for the artist will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, and a gallery talk will be held on Thursday, February 2, at 11 a.m.
The ten oil paintings in the exhibition, each four feet high by three feet wide, form a circle connecting the changing light of day to the seasons and weather of a year. The foreground of each painting is dominated by a still life, each built on a different idea. The forms create a visual narrative that contrasts human and natural cycles. Each painting is stand-alone complete while at the same time integral to the whole.
The sun rises in spring as tiny shoots of grass grow from the rotted compost of the previous year. The series progresses to a summer afternoon with grasses growing taller, partially obscuring naked and carefree lovers playing with a toy sailboat. In autumn, with evening falling, the tall grass is suddenly cut, leaving an army helmet alone in the blood-soaked soil. Night falls as the winter wind blows feathers, seeds, and snowflakes from one painting to another, against a backdrop of dark ocean.
Also on view will be a short film made by independent filmmaker and Simon’s Rock film professor Larry Burke about the creation of the Panoptica series.
Ann Getsinger’s roots stretch from the deep south to the coast of Maine to San Francisco, but at center are the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, where she has lived since 1980.
Born in Waterbury, Conn., in 1956, Getsinger grew up in then rural Watertown, beside a working dairy farm and miles of woods. The youngest of five, she was raised in an atmosphere of creative activity, to the explosive backdrop of the sixties, and with a closeness to nature and agriculture. Every spare moment was spent drawing or riding horses. She won the Art Award in junior high and again in high school.
After first studying at Paier School of Art in New Haven, Conn., she then moved to the Berkshires working as an illustrator and graphic designer before leaving to study at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1979. At that time San Francisco was experiencing the Punk movement, which overlapped with the last of the hippies and was just before the onset of the AIDS epidemic. She studied under abstract expressionist Hassel Smith and worked on an Alice Aycock installation. While on the West Coast, Getsinger traveled to the lagoons of central Baja, Mexico to witness the California grey whales’ annual return.
In 1980, Getsinger came back to New England, living first in coastal Maine and then returning to the Berkshires. There she met and studied informally with representational artist Sheldon ‘Shelly’ Fink. Shelly introduced the young artist to the tradition of realism, the working methods, materials, and philosophical perspective. The two lived together, created a business, and formed a friendship which lasted until Fink’s death in 2002.
(In the 1950s, Shelly Fink was a member of a group of realist painters in New York City which formed after World War Two, a group which went against the then-current fashion of modernism, relating instead to the long line of realists which extended from Rembrandt and Vermeer, through Sorolla, Kathe Kollwitz, and especially to Thomas Eakins. Among their group were David Levine, Harvey Dinnerstein, and Herbert Steinberg.)
In 1988, Getsinger bought her home, which had previously been a laundry building on a once elegant turn-of -the-century estate, in the rural southern Berkshire hill town of New Marlborough. In the late 1970s, the estate had been the home of fluxism founder George Maciunas, where he was visited by John Lennon and fluxist artist Yoko Ono.
In 2002, Getsinger designed and constructed a studio building just a few steps from her home. Its design, with three tall windows to the north, was inspired by the studio of late 19th- and early-20th century sculptor Daniel Chester French in nearby Glendale, Mass.
Getsinger is a generalist whose interests include antique prints, historical ephemera, and photography, decorative arts, as well as natural history; her many shells, bones, seedpods, and a horse skull, along with odd toys and decorative hats, fill her studio. She’s a voracious reader of just about anything and cites Mad magazine as an early influence, noting especially the drawings of Don Martin. Some of Ann Getsinger’s other artistic influences include the work of contemporary artists Julio Larraz and Walton Ford, as well as the late artists Gregory Gillespie, and friend and New Yorker cover artist Arthur Getz.
Getsinger’s oil paintings, while rooted in traditional realism, have evolved to include layers drawn from surrealism, memory, and imagination. The artist draws from her many interests combining still life, landscape, figurative, and imaginative work, to create a distinct point of view, her own realism with a playful and serious twist.
The exhibition and film will be on view daily, 10 – 5pm, and by appointment by calling the exhibitions curator at 413.528.7389. The exhibition is on view to the public from January 27 to February 17, 2012.
The Daniel Arts Center is located off of Alford Road (an extension of Taconic Avenue) about a mile and a half west of Main Street, Great Barrington and about a half mile before the main entrance to Simon’s Rock.