Here's the opening reception last Friday in Newport News, Virginia at Peninsula Fine Arts Center's Unbroken Thread: The Art of Philip Koch exhibition. The whirling blur in the photo above is Michael Preble, Curator of PFAC, introducing the exhibit to the guests. Perhaps it's appropriate that Michael is seen in motion- he'd just completed overseeing the hanging of both my show and the excellent companion show of works on paper by Virginia landscape artists. That's 100 some works, wall labels, text panels, storing of the shipping materials, etc,
I urge any of my readers to volunteer at a local art museum or art center to help with the preparation and hanging of a show. It's amazing how much goes into it to give a professional seamless presentation of the art to the public. I think people who work in art museum must have long ago taken the slogan "no guts, no glory" to heart and jumped into doing the work of three normal people. Happily Michael Preble and his crew did a wonderful job with these paired exhibitions. The bearded man in the white shirt at the far left is PFAC's Mike McGrann who has helped so much to get the word out on these shows.
Below is PFAC's huge Ferguson Gallery taken before the guests arrived. The Curator had placed three large free-standing walls in the center of the gallery to break up the space and allow a few more pieces to be hung. I always loved it when large exhibit spaces get broken up in this way. It makes for an more intriguing space that beckons the visitor to come in and discover. I always imagine how one of my family's cats would have to walk all around any new large object that's introduced to the house- sniffing it and checking out what's behind it. We humans aren't so different.
At the very far end of the gallery you can see the oil The Voyage of Memory that I discussed in the previous blog. My larger work is done with a freely flowing brush and looks its best when one can
see the piece from many feet away, as you can here. I consider this an ideal installation for a painting like Voyage...
Here below is my oil Otter Cove. This one was done back in my studio based on a vine charcoal drawing that's also included in the show. I drew the charcoal out on location in Acadia National Park in Maine. Otter Cove is an inlet there on Mount Desert Island where the famous Hudson River School painter Frederic Church did a wonderful oil of the same title. I stood nearly on the same exact spot as Church had, but while he faced the mountains, I had turned 180 degrees the other way to look out to sea. My charcoal was made in June, but back in the studio my imagination took over and produced a vision of how the scene might appear in the depths of winter.
A funny thing happened while I was doing the charcoal (Mount Desert Island) that led to this big oil. My wife Alice and I were standing talking as I worked at my easel on a narrow bridge that crossed Otter Creek that leads out to the Cove. We saw movement in the bushes and a large fox jumped out onto the roadway and started out onto the bridge. Seeing us there half way over the bridge he slowed for a moment, but wanting to get to the other side, he picked up his pace again. Glaring at us imperiously as if to say "I was here first" he passed within a few feet of us, reached the far shore and scampered effortlessly up a steep embankment to disappear again into the forest. It wasn't until then that Alice and I started breathing again. Finally I said to my wife "The Muse appears to us in many guises."
Here are some of the text panels Michael Preble prepared that gave viewers some background on the work they were seeing. He also enlarged a photo Alice took of me last September painting outside Edward Hopper's studio on Cape Cod during our 13th residency there.
Below is the other large space PFAC devoted to showing my work, the Halsey Gallery. At the right is Equinox, oil on panel, 30 x 45" and at the left is West from Monhegan, oil, 28 x 42". Both paintings were accompanied in the show by works on paper I used to flesh out the vision for them enough to turn them into paintings.
Equinox, the more imaginary of the two, is a mental collage of memories I have of my boyhood home on the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York and watching the enchanting flight of countless seagulls and Canadian Geese. The background for this painting was inspired by a view of the snow covered San Francisco Peaks outside of Flagstaff, Arizona. I like stitching together seemingly unrelated parts of my experience and seeing what kind of conversation they strike up.
The reddish painting in the photo above was done from a vine charcoal I did standing next to the lighthouse on the highest hill on Monhegan Island, some 12 miles off the coast of Maine. From the summit one could just make out the distant mountains on the mainland. I loved the view and wanted to an "island to the shore" painting. To make it work though I had to move the mainland much closer to Monhegan Island so the peaks would have the scale necessary to afford the painting some drama.
Below is the other end of the same gallery with Down to the Bay, oil, 36 x 72", a view from Wellfleet on Cape Cod. I confess I only discovered this particular view when on a scouting trip looking for places to paint I came upon a road sign identifying "King Phillip Road." Now how can you pass that up? Fortunately it led to a great hidden tidal cove, perfect for the sort of painting I wanted to do.
Here's more of the crowd at the reception. Behind their heads is my oil Deer Isle, 36 x 72".
And here's the front entrance to PFAC.