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Chester County Press

A diverse roundup of artists from the county and beyond

03/27/2017 11:20AM ● By J. Chambless

'Perched on a Sycamore' by Kathy Ruck.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Last weekend's Chadds Ford Art Show showed the admirable stylistic diversity that brings out big crowds, year after year, raising money for educational programs at the Chadds Ford Elementary School.

The setting is an unglamorous gym, but the artists bring their best to this show, which is an important spotlight in the heart of a region with a fabled artistic history. If you can't find something you like at this show, you're just not trying.

There were glowing animal portraits by Shawn Faust, with cows so meticulously rendered that you could almost see them breathe. There were also ultra-vivid photographs by Robert Lott that had super-saturated colors and razor-sharp definition.

Helena van Emmerik-Finn showed her usual diversity of subject matter in a warm, soft-hued grouping of still lifes, seashore views and animal images. One of the standout artists was Teresa Haag, who creates hip,stylish views of seemingly nondescript city buildings, painted on old newsprint so that bits of text emerge, ghost-like, from the backgrounds. Whether they were tiny little jewels, or the large “Fall From Grace,” showing a dilapidated apartment building, Haag's works were distinctive and powerful.

Veteran artist J. Wayne Bystrom had an impressive wall of his bright meadow paintings, with glowing skies and richly detailed grass and flowers that draw you into the acres of space depicted in each work.

The large paintings by Rick Phillips were immediately appealing – such as a blue bike with a pot of flowers in the basket – but even the smaller works held up well next to the big pieces. Landenberg artist Kathy Ruck's “Perched on a Sycamore” captured the gnarled tree branches so well that you almost overlooked the bird perched in them.

Richard Bollinger's many admirers had a lot to choose from at his booth of originals and prints, and Bob Richey had his usual dazzling pastel landscapes that jumped off the wall, even in a tiny 4-by-4 size.

On the stage, Len Garon got a major spotlight for his paintings, and nearby, Jacalyn Beam had a large grouping of her warm, well-crafted landscapes, including views of local buildings and sunlit back roads of Chester County.

Stephen Brehm had a beguiling portrait of a contented dog, “Carly,” but his “First Snow” – with brown stubble poking through a thin layer of snow, and a gently curling, dark stream meandering through – had a perfectly rendered winter chill.

Other standouts included Lou Messa's vividly detailed woodland paintings, Mary Ann Weselyk's stylized, whimsical works, and Diane Cannon's collages, which were fascinating and intricate.

Frank DiPietro's “Winter Tree” oil crackled with energy and light, but his views of Longwood Gardens water lilies had a marvelous, vivid presence as well.

Even working in a small scale, Diane Blanche Stirrat had some fine little paintings, some with cows that regarded the viewer with a quizzical turn of the head. Madeleine Kelly had several strong works, from snowy fields to a placid autumn stream view, all equally well done.

The annual showcase spot for sculptor Lorann Jacobs is always welcome, and this year's standout was “The Green Peddler,” a marvelous frog pedaling a bike.

A classroom near the gym was the site of a showcase exhibition by Chadds Ford artist Karl Kuerner III. His huge painting of windswept, rain-lashed waves was a dazzling centerpiece, but his eerie view of a candlelit staircase was also arresting – suffused with an air of mystery and silent dread.

For those who make this show an annual tradition, it was another well-rounded selection of regional art that included the traditional favorites, but for those who discovered some work that was outside the mainstream, it was just as rewarding.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].