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Twilight and Starlight

February 3 - March 20, 2004


The watercolor Howard L. Bonington did for Cahoon Museum of American Art's "Twilight and Starlight" show was inspired by the childhood memory of adults gathered around his aunt's piano singing turn-of-the-century songs. One line that lingered in his mind was, "Oh, the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash." The South Dennis artist says he found himself humming the tune while he painted a moonlit river.

Whether or not they actually whistled while they worked, 50 outstanding area artists all seemed delighted to participate in the exhibition/sale, especially since 25 percent of the proceeds will benefit Housing Assistance Corp.'s NOAH Shelter in Hyannis (because it's a safe place for homeless people to go at night). A portion of the proceeds will also benefit the museum.

The nocturnal theme has inspired works of great visual poetry, ranging from the subdued light that follows sunset to the luminous glow of a full moon. "I am continually fascinated with the romance of night and the mystery of the way light falls and disappears in the dark," says Provincetown impressionist Simie Maryles, who painted a snowy Truro road.

"A mundane scene during the day can become a nighttime drama by moonlight," says Teresa Welch Baksa, who painted a view of her neighborhood that she observed from the kitchen steps of her home in Dennis.

In addition to a great many magical Cape scenes by the likes of Dennis Broadbent, Arnold Desmarais, Carole Chisholm Garvey, Jane Lincoln, Jayne Shelley-Pierce and Barbara Wylan, the show includes some unexpected subjects. Robert Roark's luminous piece recalls a moonlight sighting of a sleek lioness in South Africa. Xiaoqing Ding's egg tempera of two girls on a swing has the enchanting flavor of a fable. William J. Maloney painted fireworks bursting in air over the esplanade concert in Boston on the Fourth of July. Rackett Shreve's watercolor of a schooner off Marblehead is a historical scene, set around 1900 (right: Lance Walker, Is There Room For One More, 2003, oil on canvas)

The "Twilight and Starlight" exhibition is sponsored by C.H. Newton Builders of Osterville and West Falmouth.

Come springtime, Cahoon Museum of American Art will be offering visitors something old, something new in the way of exhibitions. An opening reception for both of the shows will be held on Friday, March 26, 2004.

The something old will be "Faces From the Past: Portraits by Cephas Thompson and Cephas Giovanni Thompson," March 23 - May 22, 2004, an exhibition of 19th-century works by a successful self-taught artist and the son who followed in his footsteps.

This exhibition will be drawn entirely from the collection of George C. Decas of Wareham, an attorney who became interested in the portrait artists after he bought a historic Middleboro home for his law office in 1968. Cephas Thompson was one of Middleboro's most prominent citizens and painted many other people of the town. He also traveled extensively, painting portraits throughout New England as well as in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. (He was a "snowbird" before there was such a term, consistently spending winters in the South from 1800 to 1823.) In addition to painting portraits, Thompson also made his own frames and patented a "delineating machine," a device to aid artists in drawing from nature. Cephas Giovanni Thompson had a more romantic style than his father and eventually spent some years painting in Italy. By 1840, he had painted William Cullen Bryant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Decas has done extensive research on the subjects of the paintings, so visitors will have the fun of feeling like they're getting to know the people who sat for the Thompsons so long ago.

The something new will be "A Sense of Place: Location Studies by Joseph McGurl," March 23 - May 1, 2004, a one-person show for a contemporary artist who lives in Cataumet, but whose reputation as a landscape painter is nationwide.

The focus of the show will be the small plein-air oil studies that McGurl does on a regular basis -- up to five a day in the summer, when the days are long. Occasionally, one of these pieces becomes the inspiration for a major work. Mostly, "they're for study," the artist says, "a way to become more familiar with the world I'm painting."

Spending time painting outdoors is almost a form of meditation for him, McGurl says. It helps him understand not only how nature looks, but how it feels. The "spiritual aspect of nature" is something he works hard to convey through his sensitive handling of light, atmosphere, space and texture. "That's an elusive thing to capture, but it's one of the things that I'm thinking about constantly when I'm doing a painting."

When McGurl attended Massachusetts College of Art, he painted urban scenes that had a touch of grittiness -- the expectation being that a painting shouldn't really be pretty. "I stopped painting them when I realized I didn't like my work," he says. He began selling his work -- virtually everything he painted -- when he began being true to himself by painting landscapes.

Today, in addition to painting frequently around his home on secluded Squeteague Harbor, he enjoys taking painting trips to the Yosemite and Monterey areas of California and up north to the White Mountains or Mount Desert Island. He exhibits his work at Tree's Place in Orleans, Robert Wilson Galleries on Nantucket, Hammer Galleries in New York and the John Pence Gallery in San Francisco.

Cahoon Museum of American Art is grateful to Michael and Jeanne Lazor of Cotuit and Henry and Sharon Martin of Washington, Conn., for co-sponsoring the Joseph McGurl exhibition.


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