BigTown Gallery is pleased to open its 2011 exhibition season with a tandem showing of recent work by the accomplished landscape painters, Kate Emlen and Frances Wells. Emlen is a longtime Vermont and Maine Coast resident. For an equal span of years, Wells has lived and worked alongside the Hudson River. Now in their mid-careers, the distinct path each has taken to an unwavering focus on landscape results in work that transparently registers the artist’s direct response to what is seen, but speaks, too, of our relationship with the natural world we inhabit, succinctly expressing how life lived in a particular region accumulates by its year-in, year-out, cycles of life, work, and season; it becomes part of us, and we carry it forward.

The cardinal elements of landscape are much in evidence in this show: perspective, point of view, the rise of land, the dawning/fading light, emergent weather erupting in and patterning an always moving sky. But palpably present as well in the work of both these artists, is an element more subtle, more difficult to point to, and it is key to our engagement with these paintings. This essential, this indispensible unseen accompaniment, offered first by the artist’s eye, is a sense of presence to, of a ‘being with,’ the natural world. It seems as if built into each work’s sweep of physical forms. This acts not only as our bridge into the landscape of the painting, but equips the sensibility we bring to that interaction, as if modeling the same symbiosis we enact every day with the landscapes our own lives inhabit.

Each of the works in this show offers testimony to how primary is our engagement with what is seen; and that, present in every one of our moments, at its foundation, is our direct experience of the physical world. Whether by the timeless, enduring constancy imparted by Wells’ ‘Old-Masters’-like miniatures, or by Emlen’s lively renderings of the fresh cut, caught, glimpsed, or set-aside—the indelible detail that surrounds us, and of which our lives are assembled—both artists represent that fundamental engagement so naturally, and so adroitly, that we as viewers feel we can enter, respond to, and similarly inhabit, these landscapes as if they were our own.

A one-person show of either artist’s dynamic explorations of place would include much to excite any viewer who has lived in any landscape. Juxtaposing their work doubly informs that conversation, one that speaks to our ever-changing relationship to landscape, to the things we derive from it, to what we hold in common, and to what becomes part of us. Kate Emlen and Frances Wells last exhibited together here at BigTown Gallery, in 2006. We are pleased to present with this exhibition an update to that engaging dialog.

BigTown Gallery . 99 North Main Street . Rochester, Vermont 05767