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Chester County Press

New gallery space spotlights three very creative artists

11/12/2018 11:30AM ● By J. Chambless

'Nothing's Going to Change My World' by Katee Boyle.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Any time a new gallery opens in the region, it's good news, and there's a lovely exhibition space on Kennett Pike that deserves a visit.

Gallery Duo is in what looks like a cluster of little buildings at 522 Kennett Pike, but the circa 1792 forge building is actually one big space inside. The gallery is on the second floor, with its wonderful exposed beams giving you a sense of its age. It's being run by painter Sus Iserbyt and photographer Alessandra Manzotti, and has been open, quietly, for about four months. An exhibit that opened on Nov. 9 brings in works by both artists, along with powerful sculptures and paintings by Katee Boyle, a Kennett Square artist who has several shows open throughout the region.

For this new one, “Reflections of Her Smaller Self,” Boyle has brought together older and brand-new works that explore issues of gender identity and female empowerment. There's a fairy-tale theme woven throughout the show, but the scorched, twisted and cobbled-back-together nature of the metal sculptures speaks of a titanic struggle and hard-won lessons.

Displayed on rough-hewn wooden blocks on the floor are a rough metal hand mirror, comb, crown, and plate and utensils, as well as a twisted pair of manacles. Standing on a block above them is a bent and battered metal book, “Book of Rules (Hers),” and the interplay of the tools of beauty and the damage done to the rule book is deeply resonant.

Sitting in one window is another slab of rough wood with a row of metal paper dolls rising free of the block at either end. Two new paintings at the end of the gallery explore ideas of mask and costume, and the burden of society's expectations, perhaps. Boyle's rack of metal and manipulated cloth articles of clothing is best seen by touching and pulling out each piece to read the inscriptions. They form a diary of sorts, but Boyle enjoys having each viewer link the objects in their own minds.

Sharing the gallery space are photos by Manzotti and paintings by Iserbyt, beautifully arranged so that the colors and shapes complement and contrast with one another. The paintings – some with recurring shadow-like figures in walled settings – are haunting, but Iserbyt's landscapes, some of them only a few inches wide, suggest acres of space with only the barest application of dark paint to suggest a city, a field, a snowy hillside.

The surfaces are deceptively plain, but are actually heavily worked with uncountable layers of paint, like whitewashed plaster walls that are dinged and smudged by the passing of time. When she goes large, as in “Patagonia,” the feeling of space in the paintings is immense. Hanging next to it is Manzotti's photo, “Nomad,” a view of a herder and his animals, and both works make similar shapes and gestures against a white background.

In the entrance space downstairs is a mix of other paintings and many of Manzotti's elegant black-and-white photos. Her dazzling snow scenes are immersive, not to mention technical feats of magic, particularly her view of snow-crusted fences and a line of spectacular winter trees. There are several images of wild horses taken on the Outer Banks. One of them – a shaggy horse looking serenely at the camera, backlit in tall grass – stops you in your tracks.

Manzotti even manages to find new ways of seeing Chester County trees and fields, and that alone is quite an achievement.

The exhibition will continue through Nov. 30. For more information, find Gallery Duo on Facebook.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.


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