Claiming the Landscape

June 22 – August 10

Everywhere and every day we are claiming more and more of the landscape that comprises our planet, usually in ways that diminish its value and narrow our perspectives. The four artists, Jan Beekman, Bryan Nash Gill, Giovanni Greci and Gregory Spaid, whose work appears in the Alva Gallery exhibition “Claiming the Landscape” show us ways in which to claim the landscape that enhance and expand our vision; ways that open us up to be claimed by the landscape even as we make our claims on it.

Jan Beekman, a native of Belgium, studied drawing and painting at the Academie Royale des Beaux Arts in Brussels. His style, however, is far from academic. Currently living in the middle of the forest in Southeastern Connecticut, his paintings hover on the edge of representation, shaped by the transparency of light, the shapes of shadows and the tactility of the nature which surrounds his studio.Beekman admits that, “A certain friability has come into my work, expressing the fragility of our human and natural condition” has resulted from the constant intimate relationship that he now holds with his surroundings.

Beekman came to America as an artist in residence at the University of Michigan in 1982. His first trip to the Southwest with its “immense space untouched and unspoiled nature, in contrast with the manipulated nature of Europe” induced him to resettle in the United States in 1984. He has taught and exhibited in both Europe and America and is represented in private and public collections on both continents.

Bryan Nash Gill is a native of Connecticut and her woods. His years of exploring and playing and gathering in the woods have resulted in a reflection of nature through drawing, painting and sculpture. This exhibition features his wood and bronze sculptures. From their beginnings as raw pieces of tree trunks, branches, bark, twigs, leaves, fronds and pods, evolve works that are sometimes monumental, often lyrical and always poignant. In a review of his 2001 show at Real Art Ways in Hartford, it was said, “He makes nature new- and art a matter of discovery”.

Nash Gill received his M.F.A. from the California College of Arts and Crafts and has exhibited extensively throughout New England. He is represented in both private and public collections such as the William Benton Museum of Art and IBM, New York.

Giovanni Greci, is a native and resident of Parma, Italy and brings a wholly different perspective in his view of the world around him. Humans, or signs of them, almost always inhabit his photographic landscapes. His unusual use of visual frames that modify and confuse the usual perspectives, the tilt of 45 degrees of our more usual paths, allow Greci to produce an effect of instability of what is the real world. Water, sky and earth, appearing from something like a compass out of control, tend to acquire the precarious movement of the time of their creation. Rich in color, full of surprising effects and poetry, Greci’s photographs reveal his love of the world by exposing its most surprising sides.

Gregory Spaid leads a double life. One as an academic at Kenyon College where he has taught since 1979 and been the Associate and then Acting Provost since 1999 and the other as an accomplished photographer with three books to his credit. The black and white photographs in this exhibition come from two bodies of work. One entitled “Grace: Photographs of Rural America” and the other, just published, called “On Nantucket”. While the subject matter of these works is quite different, the quiet, probing eye of the photographer is always evident, as are the striking observations he makes for us.

The photographs in “Grace” were inspired by Spaid’s return to America after several years living in Italy. With a fresh eyed gaze, Spaid says, “I saw an aesthetic quite different from Europe: a beauty commonplace, austere, utilitarian, hopeful and yet temporary. Rural America seemed built for the moment…entire towns are disposable.” Spaid has captured both the melancholy and the hope that springs from the resilience of the land and its spiritual power in the lives of people.”

Spaid has been photographing Nantucket over the last 18 years and has compiled a body of works that reflect the island as a “built environment with deep roots and a social history that can be clearly read in its buildings”, according to Spaid. He shows how the stark authenticity of Melville’s Nantucket with the softening effects of frequent fog and the flower boxes and gardens which have become part of her topography today.

Spaid is an active lecturer about photography and his work has been widely collected by both museums, such as the MOMA in New York and the Getty in Santa Monica, CA, and corporations. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has twice given him grants.

VIEW ARTISTS:   Jan Beekman   |   Brian Nash Gill   |   Giovanni Greci   |   Gregory Spaid