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GALA artists keep an open mind for ‘Plein Air’ show

Annette Sykes, president and gallery director of GALA, speaks about the upcoming gallery featuring work by Elizabeth Fox-Wolfe. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — “En plein air” is a French expression meaning “in the open air.”

For Galleries at LynnArts’ new exhibition, “Plein Air,” curated by Jessica Jordan, local artists were asked to leave the comfort of their studios and step outside into the plein air to capture a scene. 

“Plein air painting has a very important place in art history. We wanted to honor that history while opening up the definition some to allow for other media and a non-traditional take on this work,” said Jordan.

An opening reception for the show takes place Friday, 5:30-8 p.m., at GALA’s headquarters on Exchange Street. The exhibit runs through Sept. 27. 

“We took a broad definition of what plein air meant,” said Annette Sykes, GALA gallery director. The artists certainly kept an open mind out in the open air.

Yes, there are the traditional landscapes and cityscapes, with many wonderful paintings of downtown Lynn buildings included. But there are many unexpected treats, especially by photographers who had a field day, pushing the plein art directive to the outer limits. Larry Dunn, who is best known for eye-popping architectural photographs, produced “Color My World,” a bold, vivid creation that pieces together photos of plein air artists’ paint-splashed palettes.

“Larry went all meta on us,” said Nicole Werth, Lynn artist and GALA treasurer.

Ryan McSweeney’s photograph of a dragonfly landing on a flower is breathtaking. Jack Holmes snapped a photo through his car windshield on a rainy day, which eerily distorts everything in the image.

Sally Jacobson experimented too, creating a colorful cyanotype on paper that was seasoned by exposing it to the sun. 

The acrylic painting “Friends Forever” by Sarah Comins, a North Shore Community College student who is a sponsored member of GALA, uses excellent shadow work to highlight two young people enjoying the outdoors. It’s a standout. Meanwhile, Leslie Fahn Rosenberg, a veteran of the North Shore arts scene, presents three totally different works, two creative paintings and a photograph of colorful found items.

Results of a plein art group outing to Red Rock are displayed here. Most of the participants are untrained, and their drawings/paintings of a tree near the beach are varied, but all show a distinct style.

Sykes said another plein air “excursion” will take place Sept. 23, 3-6 p.m., as part of the Essex National Heritage Area’s Trails & Sails celebration. It will depart from the LynnArts building on Exchange Street, and everyone’s invited; artists should bring drawing or painting supplies. Who knows, your creation might appear in the next GALA show.  

The artists included in the Plein Art show are Alerth Samson, Annette Sykes, Ashley Cole, Dawn Jenkins, Emmanuelle Le Gal, Erin Sutton, Heather Goodwin, Heather Meri Stewart, Jack Holmes, Janice Koskey, Jason Goodwin, Jessica Jordan, Jessie Goodwin, Jonathan Pinto, Karen Matthews, Larry Dunn, Leslie Fahn Rosenberg, Maris Prost, Nicole Werth, Olga Gernovski, Patty Klibansky, Raymond Gilbert, Ryan McSweeney, Sally Jacobson, Sarah Comins, Sheila Billing, Sheila Golden, Stephanie Timmermann and Terry Slater. 

Also opening Friday in the adjacent community gallery is “Elizabeth Fox-Wolfe (1926-2019) — A Celebration of Her Life and Art.” This is the first public showing of the abstract paintings of Lynn’s Elizabeth Fox-Wolfe, who died in January at age 92. 

This is a fascinating story. Fox-Wolfe did not exhibit during her lifetime, but was a consummate artist who, in her youth, studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with Karl Zerbe, a key artist in the Boston Expressionist movement. She later went back to school, earning an MFA in painting from UMass-Amherst. 

Fox-Wolfe’s paintings hint at figures, plant forms, architecture and interiors in a palette of earth tones and bold colors. 

“She lived a very interesting life,” said Werth. “She installed sheetrock, worked on a fishing boat, and painted, painted, painted. But she never showed her work outside.” The works in the exhibit are part of various family and friends collections. The last painting is dated January 2019. 

Fox-Wolfe has two grown children and grandchildren. One of her two surviving brothers, Herbert Fox, lives in Lynn and has been involved in the community for four decades. Other family members live in Nahant.

For more information on these shows and GALA, visit www.galleriesatlynnarts.org.

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