Carolyn H. Edlund, part of the new “A Different Point of View” exhibit up at the Mark Gruber Gallery in New Paltz into the latter part of November, still feels new to the sort of work for which she’s now gaining recognition. Like her fellow exhibit artist Vince Natale, the Poughkeepsie-based Edlund is best-known for more Realist works – in her case, landscapes and portraits.
“I took my first art classes when I was 11 and started painting seriously about 35 years ago, with a real push for the past decade,” she says of her career, in which she was largely self-taught until taking classes with top classically trained artists around the region. “These new paintings I am showing are a complete departure for me: all created this year and started after I was asked to be part of an exhibit in Rochester last fall entitled ‘Proverbs & Common Places.’ When I showed what I’d created to Mark, he asked if I could do a whole exhibit along these lines.”
The works in the new show play with elements of symbolism and wit, and verge on the surreal via their straightforward mix of hyperrealist elements with something more whimsical at times, or dreamlike at others.
Natale’s works play with the idea of what could be, or what might have been, and demonstrate the ways in which such a keen observer feels about all that he has been capturing over the years. Edlund, meanwhile, creates still-lifes and positioned tableaux that pivot off underlying proverbs with a deep sense of wit, lent oddness by the strength of her classical approach to painting.
She says that she enjoyed the added compositional work that went into the 30 pieces on view. She referred to an old Oxford anthology of proverbs, whittled down how she wanted to approach the ones that she chose to work with visually and then painstakingly arranged her elements. “They’re little puns,” she said. “I wanted a light treatment and never intended to go at them as a form of Surrealism.” Nevertheless, both artists’ work ends up with that sensibility, albeit with less reliance on dream logic or the darker side of mysterious analogies.
Edlund laughed, talking about how a recent piece in the American Arts Quarterly recommended the surreal elements of her “fleshlike” interpretation of rocks in a Catskills landscape, because she never meant anything of the sort while painting. “I guess there’s an odd element that comes through when I omit elements from a landscape,” she said. “I just try to have fun.”
The artist said that she has got another 30 works from the past year that elaborate on many of the simpler pieces in the current Gruber exhibit. And she’s looking to do more in this vein, including several that place elements, like birds or a tightrope, into her earlier landscapes.
“I am still doing a portrait, and I continue to love painting landscapes plein aire,” she added. “But this thing about making the brain work a little harder – I like that!” As do we.
“A Different Point of View,” Monday-Saturday through November 22, Mark Gruber Gallery; New Paltz Plaza, New Paltz; (845) 255-1241, www.markgrubergallery.com.