Charles Shepard, President & CEO
The enduring strength of Impressionism, in all its various forms, is its power to stir our souls. When Claude Monet left his studio and walked with his brushes into the fields that stretched behind, his eyes began to show him things far beyond what his intellect could convey. What looked like nothing more than stacks of drying hay were, in the truth of the changing light, subject that glowed in different hues as the sun moved in the sky. The dynamism of light on an object in situ changed the pictorial equation: tight, precise brushwork was suddenly inadequate to express the reality of things in nature.
Going outside for Monet, for his fellow Impressionists, and for all today’s en plein air (French for in the open air, it refers to artists working outside their studio) artists, has indelibly transformed the course of painting forever. Contemporary painters John Kelty and Heidi Malott, both top award winners in the Fort Wayne Artist Guild’s Paint Out, held August 11 at the museum, have long dragged their easels and brushes out of their respective studios to confront their chosen subjects in the environment in which they exist. The result of their efforts are compelling impressions that impart powerful feelings and emotions about the world which these two very talented artists depict.
John Kelty’s watercolor, Main Street, poetically addresses the present physical reality of Fort Wayne’s famed downtown, but the compositional inclusion of the Allen County Courthouse in the midst of sleek, modern towers also speaks to Main Street’s history. John successfully uses the inherent qualities of watercolor to capture the “mass” of the surrounding architecture and the tree-lined edge of the busy street while softening the whole composition with a romantic haze that ties everything together.
In Heidi Malott’s fine oil painting, Blank’s Blaze, the artist took on two formidable challenges for a plein air painter: first, her subject, Martin Blank’s 50-foot glass sculpture, is installed indoors, removed from the fluctuations of natural light so beloved by plein air painters; second, Heidi’s subject is another work of art with its own goal of expression. Using her oils to loosely capture the sculptural forms before her in strong flourishes of color shaped by bold curvilinear strokes, Heidi suppresses the deep space in the background with darker, flatter brushwork. The effect is to make her subject’s swirls and curls pop in the foreground in stunning fashion.
Both of these accomplished painters demonstrate their mastery of their chosen media in these two ribbon-earning paintings and remind us of the strength of our regional artists. Works such as these are the backbone of American art and deserve our praise and recognition.
To see more of our regional artists, be sure to stop in to the Paradigm Gallery during normal museum hours. You can also read features on the artists in Abby Leon’s, Paradigm Gallery Director, blog posts, Let’s Talk Shop!