5/16/2013 - Picturesque green trails, mountainous landscapes, snowy paths and white picket fence-lined farmland — this is “New Hampshire As We See It,” according to the artists featured in the latest exhibition at the New Hampshire State Library’s gallery.
Over the past few years, members of New Hampshire’s Department of Cultural Resources have been at work trying to draw in exhibits for the somewhat newly renovated upstairs space in the New Hampshire State Library.
Its green- and gold-trimmed skylight and its polished marble floors are details that make this space perfect for a gallery, said Van McLeod, commissioner for the Department of Cultural Resources, and it’s his intention that this become more of a public space.
So the department reached out to statewide organizations to present exhibits here — the Auschwitz exhibit, which was on view in March, presented by the Polish Cultural Foundation, was an extreme success, as was “Shaping Our Heritage” a couple years back, which was a display of New Hampshire cultural crafts and traditions.
The New Hampshire Department of Cultural Resources reached out again, this time to the New Hampshire Artists Association for this latest show, which will be on view through May 31.
The exhibit is somewhat organized by subject. Upon entering, viewers are greeted by realistic and abstracted interpretations of New Hampshire’s outdoors. William McLane’s “Prelude to Winter” looks like a tye-dyed fall leaf magnetized to fit a 3-foot by 3-foot canvas. Its orange, red, green, yellow and spots of speckled brown swirl together, and the leaf’s veins pop out of the canvas.
Richard Widhu’s “Lichen” consists of layers and layers of oil, acrylic and paper pulp; Widhu created the lichen (a fungus that grows with algae) to look more like a 3D periwinkle flower.
Moving along this right side of the gallery, viewers will stumble upon quintessential New Hampshire scenes: “Beach Cottages” by Catherine Epperson Photography, featuring a cluster of tiny houses with gray siding overlooking a rocky seashore at sunset; “Bennington Riverbed” by Gail Allen, which displays a rust-colored bridge crossing over a plant- and rock-lined fall riverbed; “Fences,” by Carol VanLoon Photography, a black and white image of open farmland cut by curving white picket fences; and “Spring Woods” by Barbara Stevens Adams, a pastel painting of a quiet, abandoned trail in what looks looks to be the early fall, as the trees are covered with light green and mustard yellow leaves.
Norman West, the gallery’s curator, sifted through 47 submissions to settle on the 33 that showed.
“I chose them in terms of how they would fit together. Quality was a priority, but then I chose the art in themes that would reach everybody: through landscapes, environmental pieces, abstract work, progressive work, photography, watercolor, acrylic, oil, mixed media,” West said.
He also took into account how the artwork would work in the space provided. It wasn’t difficult; the renovations that have taken place here over the past few years have given curators a great space to work with, he said.
“It’s a grand space. The state library just restored that room, and it’s very elegant. … The huge ceiling lights work beautifully. This ugly linoleum was scraped up, and beneath, they found beautiful marble flooring,” West said.
West grew up in New Hampshire but currently works in Maine and frequently organizes the hanging shows at the Barn Gallery. Katharine Muth, executive director of the New Hampshire Art Association, said that they choose people out of state to curate these shows so there’s no bias.
Muth said that this show in Concord provides a great opportunity for NHAA artists.
“We have a gallery in Portsmouth, but we’re a statewide organization, and we’re looking for venues across the state. It’s easier for them to participate and for them to promote their work when we do this, because our members are from all over,” she said.
McLeod hopes that more statewide organizations will reach out and present shows here. In June, the New Hampshire Society of Photographic Artists will present a show, in collaboration with a photography group from Exeter, England.
“We’d like this space to be seen as a public gallery,” McLeod said. “We want to show off the things that are going on in New Hampshire.”