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Vignette, Styles of Narrative Painting at the Arts Center of the Capital Region

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Big Idea, Rebecca Shepard, Vignette, Arts Center of the Capital RegionThe Arts Center of the Capital Region will be opening a new exhibit in their main gallery called Vignette. Curated by Nadine Wassarman, this exhibit features the work from five very different artists, with the idea behind it of showing various approaches to narrative painting, utilizing different styles from abstract to realism. Joel Griffith, Ingrid Ludt, GG Roberts, Rebecca Shepard, and Ann Wolf will have their works on display from January 18th through March 20th, 2011.

Joel Griffith is not only a great painter; he’s a great writer too. The words over his website gallery read “I paint the world so I may see the world, to try and know it in all its depth and complexity, to witness its beauty and truth. I hope that viewers will find in these paintings a record of that engagement, and then look again at the world itself with a refreshed and deepened vision.” It’s hard to explain art, but I think he just summed it up quite nicely. His paintings are realistic, usually without a human in sight. Yet the works of humans are everywhere in his art. Roads, telephone poles, trailers, trucks, car, houses…and then there are the trees. Woods, skies, fields, all of the natural things we’ve blemished. Yet Griffith does not paint our industry in a reproachful way. A tiny trailer home covered in snow with its propane tank and TV antennas sticking up should be a bleak painting. Yet it’s beautiful, and I have to really stare to figure out why. It must be the ocean blue hues in the sky and in the snow. An empty neighborhood intersection at nighttime becomes lovely from the warm golden light of the overhead street lamp. To me, the scenes seem unmistakably upstate New York, but the friendliness and charm with which they are painted reminds me of my childhood in the South.

Ingrid Ludt’s abstract paintings have been growing on me. My mind cannot make sense of them, though the forms seem simple. I have to keep coming back to her work, each time feeling like I’m on the brink of comprehension but never getting there. Her art looks like the notebook of a botanist on an alien planet. Or perhaps someone who meant to draw a Chinese character and then the pen grew a will of its own. I wish I could say more, but I guess that’s the beauty of abstract art.

GG Roberts has an incredibly distinctive style. Going with my gut I would call it a more charged version of Norman Rockwell. Her art is bold and colorful, yet there is something disturbing about almost all of her paintings. At first glance, her work could be a cover of a 1950s Life magazine. Then you notice how distorted the children and clowns look. The painting entitled Morningwood, which features a man in a business suit holding an axe, is another thing. Then you have the two little boys seated against a stairwell, one playing with his, um…weiner. I don’t even want to know what is going on in the bathtub scene Mrs. Bubble. Even the picture of the family parked in the woods on a summer evening seems like it could the opening scene of a horror movie. One thing is for sure—GG Roberts does not paint anything bland. You have to appreciate that.

The works of Rebecca Shepard and Ann Wolf that I’ve seen are equally compelling. Ann Wolf made a painting featuring a baby abandoned in the snow under a bush, while tiny songbirds looked down from the branches. It looks like it’s a lost story from Brothers Grimm’s fairytales. Or maybe it’s Peter Pan right before Tinkerbelle found him and carried him to Neverland. Either way, I love the plot questions the painting raises. One of Rebecca Shepard’s paintings shows a dark bedroom on a patterned background (pictured). A single person is working under a desk lamp, while the outlines of demons hover in the corners of the room. A dog is walking out of the frame. The picture could mean many things, but it strikes a chord with me because that’s how I feel when I get goose bumps late at night. Incidentally, Rebecca Shepard also recently had a show at the Lake George Arts Project this past November/December.

The works I’ve mentioned here may not be the exact paintings you’ll see at this exhibit, but rest assured the work and style of these artists will inspire you.

The gallery hours are Monday-Thursday 11am to 7pm, Friday-Saturday 9am to 5pm, and Sunday 12pm to 4pm. The Arts Center is located at 265 River Street in Troy. Happily admission is free, so you can make a date out of it by seeing some art and grabbing coffee or lunch in downtown Troy. The delicious Illium Café is right across the street, and the Dinosaur BBQ recently opened nearby on River Street. For more information call 518-273-0552 or visit

-Briavel Schultz is an Assistant Editor of The Free George.

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