by Margaret Kusner ·
Friday, May 26, 2023
Eleven artists are presenting paintings, drawings, photographs, mixed media assemblages, ceramic sculpture, and collage in a show titled “Live:Work” at Fivesparks, through July 8. The artist reception will be Sunday, June 4, from 3 to 6 p.m.
Denise Driscoll’s “Confluence-3.” (Courtesy photos)
Johanna Tiemann’s “Escargot-Begonia.”
The show’s title, “Live:Work,” acknowledges that the exhibitors are part of a community totaling 50 artists, selected from a waiting list, who reside and create their art in the live-in lofts, averaging 1,300 square feet, situated in Western Avenue Studios and Lofts in Lowell. This post-industrial urban complex, a renovated five-story spinning and textile mill of 265,000 square feet along the historic Pawtucket Canal, also includes 250 work-only studios.
Besides being affordable and convenient, the live/work arrangement may allow the artists to be more productive and inventive, to feel supported, to work more expansively and take more creative risks to sustain concentration, focus, and intensity.
While viewing the diverse styles and media in the show, the one common quality I felt was immersiveness. I found myself getting up close to each piece to see the edges of the paint and the cut paper, the texture of the brush strokes, to mingle among the images, to hear the leaves rustle, to smell the dirt … to feel the life in the art.
Some of the work in the exhibit is large, which felt exhilarating to me, like a big muscular stretch. Even before I entered the building, the large, joyfully colorful canvases by Denise Driscoll caught my attention when I saw them through the glass openings in the doors. In the main gallery, Amy R. Roberts’ three large canvases of meticulously painted ground-level views of nature drew me toward their detailed surfaces. From there, I was soon up close to the large but delicate silk paintings of nature by Johanna Tiemann, who was the winner of last year’s “Destination:Nature” show at Fivesparks.
The collages by Maxine Farkas, composed of tiny architectural images and text from old books, lure the viewer to come up close and step into her created world. Angela Ales’ images within images invite you to step into her dreamy archeological world.
Barbara Fletcher’s three-dimensional piece, “Look Deep into Nature,” is demanding that you look. The title references a quote by Albert Einstein: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
The paintings by Wendy James allude to Lowell’s history as a place where women have left their homes and immersed themselves in this place to live and work: during the Industrial Revolution to work in the mills or during a modern day migration from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge.
All 11 artists have immersed their lives in their work to bring their work to life.
As is usual at Fivesparks, this show is hung expertly, thoughtfully, and in such a way that the works of art not only “speak” to each other but seek to immerse the viewer in the conversation.
For a further look at these artists, their work, and their lofts, visit Western Avenue Studios and Lofts, 122 Western Ave., Lowell on the first Saturday of each month from noon to 5 p.m., when artists open their spaces to show and talk about their art.