Northampton Press

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Gallery View: Muhlenberg 'girl band' exhibition rocks

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by BATHSHEBA MONK Special to The Press in Focus

It's like one of those word association tests. You say the word "band" and a different image appears in everyone's mind.

In the case of the art show, "girl band," Jan. 15 - Feb. 22, Martin Art Gallery, Baker Center for the Arts, Muhlenberg College, 2400 Chew St., Allentown, four women artists display their very different and fully realized takes on the same theme.

Pat Badt, professor of art at Cedar Crest College, conceived of the show and contacted women she had known throughout her art career who had traveled similar paths before arriving at remarkably dissimilar destinations. The one thing that unites the finished products of these four abstract painters is that they start with a line.

Badt starts her paintings by laying a grid of strings nailed to the wall on top of the canvas. Then she paints on top of them, using the strings as a guide. "I want to restrict gesture," she says about painting within a matrix. "And when I remove the grid, it's like unwrapping a present. I never know what I'm going to get."

Although the idea of painting with constraints may seem limiting, the result is anything but. Badt's paintings are intensely personal and she mines specific experiences or memories for the colors that form thick nuanced layers.

"Licorice Buttons and the Beach, 2012" is a tribute to her father who used to love to eat licorice buttons and who also loved the beach. The result is an undulating tan, yellow and white striped canvas with black streaks. Badt loves to put objects that inspired the painting on the back and, in this case, she attached a half-finished portrait of her father that she started while he was sitting on the beach with, of course, a bag of black candy.

Marthe Keller, another artist featured in "girl band," doesn't go to her personal repertoire for inspiration. She loves color for its own sake modern plastic industrial color and in fact switched from rich oil paint to acrylic to accommodate her vision of accidental juxtapositions of color which can be "non-beautiful, decayed and overtly irritating." Her line is fluid, sometimes ending abruptly, which forces the viewer to notice how varying thicknesses and intensities of color relate to each other.

Julie Shapiro says she gets her inspiration from landscape. It's easy to get lost in the endless space created by her web-like structures of color which, finally, seem to be about themselves, creating another reality.

Kim Uchiyama's bands of intense color bring to mind the sharp contrasts of mid-day where there is no shading or rendering of light, just full frontal saturated hues.

A reception for the artists with wine and light refreshments is 4:30 - 6 p.m. Jan. 22 in the arts center.