Artists evoke imagination with abstract exhibit

The Art Alliance in Lemont will enlighten open minds with a sampling of some of the best abstract art in the region, as several of the area’s finest artists come together for the 2013 Abstraction Art Show from Nov. 8-17.

The exhibit will feature work from 33 local artists, including Pasquale and Anne Cortese; acrylic painter Melinda Harr Curley; Mary McGuire, who works in acrylics and watercolors; and Susan Graham, who expresses her art through oil paintings.

The exhibit has been an annual event since November 2006, when Anne Cortese made a case for the show.

She and husband Pasquale, who specializes in black and white drawings done in pen and ink, already have some of their work displayed at Foxdale Retirement Village.

“For me, my abstract work is an exploration of space and color,” said Cortese. “I tend toward geometric minimalism; within that framework. The brushstrokes and the marks and colors set the feeling. Some create abstract safe houses. Some play with negative shapes and pulls. It’s form without constraint; of imitating the real world. All the decisions I make for myself in a work, create an experience for the viewer.”

Originally from Long Island, Graham said she has painted since she was 12, when her aunt gave her some oil paints and brushes and her mother gave her a paint box. She painted and took courses sporadically for many years, all the while keeping busy raising three sons, playing cello in the Nittany Valley Symphony and working as an architect.

“When I retired five years ago I finally had time to pursue painting more fully,” she said. “Fortunately I took a painting course at the Art Alliance and have been involved in many of their shows ever since.”

Co-chairwoman Wendy Snetsinger was fortunate enough to have parents who were artists, and they always sensed that she had the ability and encouraged her. Snetsinger, who studied fine arts at the University of Illinois, said she’s always had a love for the visual arts, particularly abstraction.

“When it comes to abstraction, it’s a joy to be able to not have a preconceived notion of what the canvas can hold, but rather a freeing of movement of the brush, of the colors, of the relationship of shapes, of the surprise element,” she said. “Something emerges that was totally unexpected. Just the physical act of moving paint in different ways, whether it’s the brush or pouring paint from a bottle, or mixing it with other materials, gluing things on, the collage elements — it all becomes a challenge, so that it makes sense visually but yet has a richness.”

Each year the Art Alliance brings together people interested in all kinds of art and opens up opportunities for people to participate in shows throughout central Pennsylvania. The Abstraction Show is just one of many artists’ favorites since it focuses on the main interest of abstract art and lets the artist have more leeway in terms of painting size.

“I like to paint big pictures,” Graham said.

Originally from England and growing up in New York City, artist Barbara Metzner graduated as a returning adult student from Penn State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in sculpture in 1994.

“I couldn’t find a large enough space to do my sculpture, so I returned to my first love, which is painting,” she said.

Metzner has been a member of the Art Alliance for a decade and said although she does representational art, her passion is “abstract expressionistic” art, which allows her to be creative and trust her instincts.

“It is so gratifying for me to start with a blank canvas and pour myself into it, allowing myself to be free and unafraid of expressing what comes from within,” she said. “My goal is to connect with a wide audience and allow my paintings to invite interpretation by the viewer.”

“To me, painting is like writing a novel,” Graham said. “Initially there is a form on the canvas that gradually develops and then starts to take on its own life through the application of color and texture, exploring their interplay until the end result is achieved. My paintings are intended to provoke a strong interaction between the imagination of the artist, relative to that of the observer.”

After earning a degree in art from Chatham College, where she painted and made films, Cortese graduated with an MFA from Columbia University in New York City. While there, she concentrated on making short films, only to return to drawing, painting and photography. “In photography, I capture a moment in certain light,” she said. “In painting, there’s the joy of using your hand and messing with paint – so tactile and necessary.”

“I simply love to paint and I hope through my work other people will find meaning and enjoy it too,” Graham said. “The viewers (both the artist and the observers) bring their own interpretations to each work of art. That’s the fun of it.”