Brilliant light, interesting people and local landmarks by Heather Davis
● By J. Chambless
'Juniata Mill' by Heather Davis.
By John Chambless
The solo exhibit by Heather Davis at
the Chester County Art Association in West Chester is a milestone for
her, partially for the huge number of paintings in the large gallery,
but also as a statement of arrival for an artist who has mostly been
under the radar, despite her formidable talent.
Davis, who is also a sculptor, started painting only about five or six years ago, but she paints like someone with decades of experience.
A large part of the show is “Admiration of Souls,” a series of large portraits of other Chester County artists. Anyone who has met them – Lele Galer, Adrian Martinez, Jeff Schaller and Robert Jackson among them – will recognize the likenesses immediately, but Davis goes further by putting her subjects in surroundings that embellish them.
Jackson, at his easel, is surrounded by the toys and trinkets featured in his paintings, but the stuffed monkey hanging from his canvas is the perfect touch of whimsy, and very much in keeping with Jackson's sense of humor. In her portrait of Justin Smith, a glass artist, the workbench is full of glass objects, and Davis paints each one vividly. It's a task she could have simplified by simply not having so much going on in the foreground, but she set the bar high and succeeds admirably.
Her paintings of local landmarks and more obscure locations have a strong presence, glowing with beautifully rendered light that often jumps out at you, even from across the gallery. The blue she gets in “The Retirement Home,” for instance, is a luminous tone that's absolutely right and gorgeously rendered. It's the same mastery of color she shows in “Skunk Cabbage,” a view of the humble plant and a reflected sky.
In “Greenhouse at Sunrise,” not only does Davis get the slanting light through the glass panes, but also the wisps of mist rising off the glass as the temperature rises. “Morning Haze,” a New Jersey coastal view, has the same splendidly observed effect, as a distant house is just slightly softened.
It's fun to spot the places you recognize in her works – the Kuerner Farm in “Fresh Warm Air,” for instance – but you'll also discover an amazing vintage gas station (“Art Deco Gulf”) and a snowy side street (“Teal House in Snow”).
Her pair of barn paintings – in suitably worn-looking, whitewashed frames – capture the golden-tan tones of old wooden beams (“The Southwest Window”), and a sense of wistful sadness in “Looking for Andy,” which was painted at a sink you will recognize.
The ambition shown by Davis in completing the series of portraits, her range of subject matter and her frequent moments of magical light make her an artist you'll want to keep up with.
The solo exhibit by Heather Davis continues through Nov. 29 at the Chester County Art Association (100 N. Bradford Ave., West Chester). There will be a gallery talk by the artist on Nov. 28 at 6 p.m. Call 610-696-5600 or visit www.chestercountyarts.org for more information.
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.