At local galleries, two masters of oil and canvas

Nov. 29, 2013 @ 06:13 PM

“Lynn Boggess:  The Fall Landscape, NewPaintings,”  Tyndall Galleries, University Mall,
201 S. Estes Drive, Chapel Hill, through Dec. 21. For information, call 919-942-2290
or visit www.tyndallgalleries.com.

“Beverly McIver: New York Stories,” Craven Allen Galleries, 1106 ½ Broad St., Durham, through
Dec. 28. For information, call 919-286-4837 or visit cravenallengallery.com.

Two painters and two traditional commercial galleries; it is the way art used to be all the time. Lynn Boggess creates landscapes; Beverly McIver, people. Both slather oil paint on their canvases; the signs of their hands are everywhere. Boggess’ marks become streams, trees, and land. McIver’s become pigments of skin where certain colors show worry and others sparkles of joy. 
The galleries are what galleries are all about; they believe in an artist and promote him or her. They pay rent, heat and lights and, in return, receive a commission for the work they sell. These, however, are not just commerce-driven businesses, because love, respect and loyalty on both sides are involved in every transaction.
Boggess is a classical landscape painter who works in plein-air and, on his website, there is a video showing him working in front of these lush West Virginia scenes. In this show of 10 images he has labeled each by the date it was created and Jane Tyndall, director of the gallery, told me some of them are still a bit wet. The canvases were all completed in October and November of this year. 
Boggess sits before his scene and paints what he sees. The result is we, the viewers, are there at the site, inside the painting. We revel in the golden fall colors; the October canvases are ablaze in their rich glow.  This year it snowed sometime between the rich yellows and burnt oranges of fall and the chill of winter and the golden world turned into a fairy land of brilliant whites and frozen blues.
Sometimes Boggess uses a cement trowel, which becomes the vehicle for piling on the pigment; he uses primary colors, mixing them on his palette. 
In “Oct. 18,” the edge of the water is to the left, our eyes move past a gully to a stand of trees which still has most of its foliage, but the fall brilliance speaks to the end of the season. By “Nov. 1,” the trees are bare, the gold of fall is turning brown and the water is a deep blue. By “Nov. 11,” the land has been dusted by the first snow and a new magic has settled in. 
Boggess’ landscapes invite poetic descriptions; the scenes, cleared of debris, telephone wires and people, are the forest primeval. As we look it seems we are the only ones in the world and all this is ours alone. His message is about nature, but we know even the most pristine parks show the trails of human activity.  In the back of our minds we remember the trash we leave, but before our eyes there is nothing but the quiet beauty produced by the artist’s eye and his imagination. Yes, these are beautiful, but they are fantasies; people have been here, the evidence is everywhere.
In Durham, Beverly McIver plies her magic with paint and canvas, using rich textures, thick paint and dynamic gestures; her themes, however, are worlds away from Boggess’ intimate landscapes.
McIver paints self-portraits and portraits of others, examining the human spirit as it faces the world and its challenges. We are familiar with her many views of sister Renee, a special needs child and adult, whose existence has colored McIver’s every waking moment. Probably less well-known are the artist’s personal successes. In 2004 she received a Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation award that gave her a free studio in New York City for one year. During that year her mother died and she had to return home to take charge of Renee. In 2012 she was encouraged to re-apply to the Foundation’s Studio Program and, with that award in hand, moved again to New York for an intense year of painting and looking for new themes to explore.  She lived through Hurricane Sandy and had a solo show at the Betty Cuningham Gallery.  The paintings here are the result of the past year.  
In the gallery notes she tells us how the subway fascinated her; the people who ride the trains and the performers who play in the stations were of particular interest.  She focuses on a couple, exhausted, sitting close together in “N Y Subway.” In the background, attached to the wall of the train, is a collaged map of New York.  Another painting shows a group of musicians entertaining the travelers on the subway platform.  Moving out of her comfort zone completely, McIver has painted two nudes. Her gallery notes tell us about her friendship with the artist Philip Pearlstein and his wife. Pearlstein’s signature theme has been the nude model and I wonder if this relationship gave her the permission to show her nudes. In any event, one is a self-portrait, thick with juicy swaths of vibrant paint; the other is a pregnant friend, wrapped in the rosy hues of a ripening body. Her wall notes tell us the self-portrait is a celebration of breast reduction surgery and what a freeing thing that has been for her.
When the artist paints herself or a friend, the connection is there in every brushstroke and every patch of color. It is that emotional burst of color, globs of paint and thick strokes which are missing from the subway people.
According to gallery director Kathryn DeMarco, McIver is back home and will resume
teaching at NCCU in the spring. She is a North Carolina original; we are glad she is home.

Blue Greenberg’s column appears each week in Entertainment and More. She can be reached at blueg@bellsouth.net or by writing her in c/o The Herald-Sun, 2828 Pickett Road, Durham, NC 27705.