Landscapes meet abstracts in new High Falls show

Michael Nighswonger and Rob Hacunda. (Photo by Nicole Terpening)

The concept of a single exhibit containing landscape paintings with abstract paintings calls to mind those old commercials from the ’70s — “Your chocolate is in my peanut butter! Your peanut butter is on my chocolate!”

But once the combination is seen and savored, it’s quickly realized that yes, they are two great tastes that taste great together.

Robert Hacunda, who grew up in Marlboro but has been many places since, provides the landscape part of this exhibit, which opens this Saturday, Oct. 12 at the Modern Art Gallery in High Falls with a reception from 5-8 p.m. Michael Nighswonger, born in California and a former North Carolinian who moved into town earlier this year after spending eight years in the Adirondacks honing his craft and building an inventory of work, brings the abstracts.


“It’s like most people say when they come in, I don’t think the work competes with each other, I think it complements each other and parallels [our] personalities,” Hacunda said. “We have similarities, and differences — One way I joke about my [paintings is to say] I kinda like to go back into the distance and his come more up to meet you.”

Nighswonger’s kaleidoscopic paintings do indeed invite the eye into a glossy 3-D party of hues in which one can lose one’s own sense of time and space. Hacunda, who himself does abstracts but didn’t contribute any to this show, reaches directly into memory and emotion with his landscapes, nailing colors and forms so accurately that it roots the viewer in a specific spot at a distinct time. Each sensation somehow enhances and lends power to the other, a phenomenon akin to Hegelian synthesis that could explain why the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup was such a big hit.

As fate would have it, both painters were in recent years pretty close to each other geographically — Nighswonger up in Lake Saranac, Hacunda out by Ticonderoga. As modernity would have it, they connected via Instagram, by making comments on each other’s posts. Together at last, the two share the kind of easy rapport one finds in a like mind.

“His work and my work are different — that’s a plus,” said Nighswonger. “We can collaborate solely on our art. Not our issues, not our bullshit … it’s like, you wanna work, let’s go to work. Let’s create something. We use each other as individuals to inspire, to communicate with, to have conversation and be able to maintain our authenticity and individuality.”

There’s no real ending date for the show, they say. The Modern Art Gallery is listed at 9 Old State Route 213, but the easiest way to describe its location is to say it’s the driveway across from the High Falls Emporium.