Run, Don't Walk

Sometimes it’s exhausting trying to keep up with all the exhibits, plays and performances opening (and closing!) every week. I guess that’s a good problem to have—with 150 arts and heritage organizations supported by our United Arts Campaign, it’s a pretty good bet that on any given night we have a hand in something new popping up. United Arts gives our grantee organizations reliable, consistent support they need to deliver really cool artistic programs.

I did manage, a few weekends ago, to sneak over to the Wadsworth Atheneum on Saturday afternoon to see their newest special exhibition, Andrew Wyeth: Looking Beyond. Getting to the show became quite the comedy of errors: I was hoping to take a mid-day tour with Susan, our Welcome Center Coordinator, until I was smacked in the face by a debilitating cold; I tried to attend the member’s reception but got my dates all confused and ended up missing out; luckily, on a whim, a friend joined me for lunch and we decided to visit the show.

And I’m so glad I did.

If you’ve read my bio (and why would you?), you’d know my artistic background is in theatre, but over the last couple of years I’ve developed a real interest in visual art–both the classic and the contemporary. I’ve always had an interest—a soft spot, really—in Andrew Wyeth’s work, so I was thrilled the Wadsworth was launching an exhibition of his work with an interesting new focus. Looking Beyond plays off of some of Wyeth’s most familiar themes—doors, windows, vistas and open landscapes—to explore the theme of “what’s beyond” the viewer’s initial impression and the distance he creates between the viewer and his subjects.

“Chambered Nautilus,” in the Atheneum’s permanent collection.

The number of “finished works” on display is rather small, but the unique joy of this exhibition is the number of sketches and early watercolor studies of each work that gives tremendous insight into Wyeth’s creative process. (For another, just-as-cool look at an artist’s process, check out Red at TheaterWorks). My friend and I loved comparing the study to the final product, looking at what details Wyeth chose to keep—and discard—when composing his paintings. For an amateur, yet avid, Wyeth enthusiast, the “works-in-progress” made this collection of particular interest.

But the jewel in this crown is actually the companion exhibit, “Wyeth,” a series of photographs by somewhat-local artist James Welling. Welling spent time visiting the famous locales of Wyeth’s work, capturing still images in dazzling color and depth of some of the painter’s most recognizable subjects. It’s amazing to see how time has stood virtually still at places like the Olson homestead, while other remote areas show the signs of a slowly modernizing world. Together, the two exhibits pack a real punch and provide some amazing insight into the work of a celebrated 20th-century artist.

Run, don’t walk over to the Wadsworth and see this show. I’m still kicking myself that I virtually missed “Reunited Masterpieces” a few years ago—learn from my mistakes, and make sure you catch this one. It’s a great way to add some excitement to an otherwise lazy Saturday, or even spend a lunch hour away from your desk. AND, the gorgeous catalogue makes a great read (plus, you look super-cultured when you leave it lying about on your IKEA coffee table. Or so I’ve heard.)

Andrew Wyeth: Looking Beyond and James Welling “Wyeth” are on display until July 22nd.

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