Art In Quarantine

Local Artists Provide A Glimpse Into Their Work and Inspiration During These Unprecedented Times

By Kimber Fountain
Start Your Engines 

The best artists make their marks and often their livings by translating the myriad of beauty in our world into their given medium, be it words, dance, performance, music, or canvas. Defying the tired trope of the “tortured artist,” this talent emerges most plainly when an artist’s life is imbued with the same purpose as their art. Thus, in times of crisis such as these, it is not only an artist’s work but also their philosophies and perceptions that provide unique and thought-provoking perspectives. Four local painters, each with a style as unique as their voice, give us a glimpse into their work and inspiration during unprecedented times

Due to the ever-changing nature of the current situation and for the safety of our artists and their guests, please contact the galleries directly for their current operating hours or to make an appointment for a private consultation or viewing.

Robert Peterson, Vacation on Canvas Gallery

His gallery is called Vacation on Canvas, which seems a whimsical title until the first glimpse of his work grips your imagination and transports you to another place. Then comes the realization that the name of Robert Peterson’s gallery is very much literal.

Presuming the character of a painter who produces such bold, yet serenity-inducing works could go either way - dynamic and boisterous like his palette or steady and serene like his brush. Robert Peterson leans toward the latter.

Soft-spoken and wise, with a genuine love for the natural island habitat he so masterfully depicts, his lighthearted countenance also works its way onto his canvas in some of his most popular works. Delightfully charming, cartoon-like mermaids and baby turtles contrast the surrealness of his landscapes and wildlife yet match their emotional output with a playful exuberance.

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Above are two distinct works that Robert Peterson produced during the quarantine in different stages of being painted. "Island time at Jimmys on the Pier" features a 1960s Volkswagen  van and "Galveston Moonrise" features a moonrise over the Galveston Beach.  

It bears no surprise then that Robert Peterson handled the abrupt closure of his gallery with the same elegance as his palm trees and pelicans, and likewise found ways to mitigate the disruption of his regular business schedule.

“When we get knocked out of our normal routine, it can be frustrating and confusing,” Robert says. “But I’m fortunate to have a unique setup - my studio and loft are located right above the gallery.”

This direct, full-time access to his work and exhibit space has been an advantage during this time, he explains. “Because when that creativity hits you, you have to go with it.” Robert began simply by filling “holes” in the gallery displays left from the March ArtWalk which was held shortly before the shelter-in-place order was given for Galveston County. Less than one week after the order was made, Galveston beaches were closed the following Sunday due to large crowds they attracted over that first weekend.

“I found myself longing for those times on the beach, enjoying the salt air,” Robert remembers wistfully. Naturally, he found solace in his studio, where he was drawn to images of the beach even more than usual.

Two distinct works Robert produced during this time illustrate how his yearning for the seashore extracted both of his trademark styles. In “Galveston Moonrise,” a stirring, enchanting portrait of a moonrise over the Galveston beach, Peterson proves that silence can sing, while his Technicolor treatment of a 1960s Volkswagen Van captures all the soul and sunshine of summer.

“Most recently, I have been pulled back to palm trees and pelicans, Robert says. “I love to watch the pelicans soaring over the water, and I get the same feeling when I look at palm trees.”

These two subjects have comprised a large portion of his work over the course of his career, but now more than ever, the strength and poise of these island icons serve as a reminder of Galveston’s hallmark resilience.

Additionally, Robert has garnered inspiration from several commission paintings he has acquired during this time. “I’ve been able to do some fun things for some good people,” he says appreciatively. “The best part about commission work is that these clients can give me ideas that I never would have come up with on my own.”

Robert admits, however, that the current circumstances have influenced him personally as much as they have artistically. “This was such a change, and of course first comes the worry, we are worried about everyone. But then it makes you appreciate what is important,” he says.

“Even something as simple as being able to paint is something I don’t take for granted anymore, to have the ability to escape and create your own reality. I think all this is allowing us to take a step back and say, ‘this is what is important,’ and then never take it for granted again.”

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Vacation on Canvas
2204 Postoffice Street | 409.974.4066
www.VacationOnCanvas.com

Gayle Reynolds, The Water’s Edge

Find everything that you would expect to find at The Water’s Edge - comfort, beauty, and the mystery of what lies beneath the surface. Owner and fine artist Gayle Reynolds has assembled a kaleidoscope of talent within her gallery walls, including the work of her husband Rex Reynolds, a skilled artisan who builds dory skiffs and Adirondack tallboys that are generously available for “test-sitting.” Gayle works in both watercolors and oil with Galveston as her beloved muse, capturing simultaneously the frivolity and depth of the island environment both natural and manmade.

The Reynolds’ work is joined by the “primitive” style of Chase Jennings, whose uniquely beaded necklaces (some made with real arrowheads) spark curiosity for the ancient ages, as well as the mystical and effortlessly elegant feminine figures of Pat Moberley Moore. Some are cast in bronze, but all are sculpted with a fluidity that almost makes them seem as if they are in motion.

“For some time now, I have had some very interesting pottery by Madeleine Baker,” Gayle says. “You know she is so creative and innovative.”

Most recently, Madeleine brought in some raku pots to the gallery. “They were [originally] reddish brown and splotchy,” Gayle explains.

“However, there were more of them that she still had and after some consideration, she put them into her kiln at 1,460 degrees. They turned pink, and they have all sorts of colors and markings on them.”

Those markings are made by innovative, original, and sometimes experimental processes used by Madeleine in the firing stage. After the pots are formed, she treats the clay with an assortment of seemingly random materials - including coffee, banana peel, sugar, bird seed, horsehair, aluminum foil, moss, and magnolia leaves - and then wraps them before placing them in the kiln.

The clay and her “add-ons” can have a range of chemical reactions when placed in the extreme heat of the kiln, each producing a distinct effect on the final aesthetic.

The process, whatever the material used, rarely fails to create intriguing patterns upon the surface of the clay, and the boldness and intricacy of the fire-made designs are a perfect complement to the soft and diminutive curvature of Madeleine’s form. The series of aforementioned “pink” pottery was aptly titled, Surprise.

“And it certainly was!” says Gayle. For the curious and immersive collector, hidden inside each pot is a slip of paper that lists the materials Madeleine used for that piece.

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As for Gayle herself, she recently completed a large 48”x48” commission piece. “Aside from that, I have been thinking that now is a time for American flags,” she says. “And I have started working in that direction.”

This sentiment is not an uncommon one lately. As a symbol that has brought hope to so many especially in times of hardship, the flag’s subsequent representation of unity and solidarity has recently come to the forefront as almost every American has been affected in some way.

“I photographed those large, wonderful flags that are over the Gulf Freeway because they ripple in the wind. So lovely,” Gayle says. In the studio, her connection with the flag comes through loudly with a raw, unfiltered sense of hope and strength.

The Water’s Edge
1302 21st Street | 409.762.1925
www.GalvestonWatersEdge.com

Shawne Moore, Mock & Moore Gallery

With scale as precise as a mathematician, an uncanny ability to capture natural light, and a remarkable eye for re-creating dramatic cloud systems, the art of Shawne Moore is technically pristine. But it takes more than technique to produce the immersive, emotional images Moore creates.

In her outdoor scenes of Galveston, Moore does not only focus on the nature, nor on the architecture, but rather portrays a peace-filled, harmonious balance between the natural and the manmade. Even in her sprawling waterscapes of infinite Gulf waters and horizons, her perspective uses the viewer to establish that same balance between the wonders of man’s imagining and the marvels of nature.

Mock & Moore Gallery, where Moore’s paintings are beautifully partnered with the tactile elegance of Karla Mock’s handmade jewelry, is a combination exhibit and studio space for the two artists which engages visitors in both the art and the process.

“After closing down the gallery in March, I reestablished my studio at home and prepared to get right back to work,” Shawne recalls. “Deep down, I expected business to slow down, but quite the opposite happened.”

Shawne (pictured above) started to receive texts and phone calls from customers wanting commission paintings as well as an offer to produce the artwork for a book.

“I think people are spending a lot of time at home now and thinking of ways to improve their surroundings,” she muses. “It also seemed people were digging into their imaginations and gaining a new level of appreciation for art in these crazy times.”

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In addition to taking on ten commission requests between late March and mid-April, most of which are now completed or near completion, Shawne also found herself relating fully to the sudden wellspring of creativity from her clients especially in regard to her home. “I found myself wanting to improve both the inside and outside of my home, to create better spaces to enjoy with my family and friends, and to be surrounded by things I find beautiful and bring me a sense of joy,” she says.

This heightened awareness of her surroundings extended further and revealed an even deeper love for the island environment she portrays in her paintings. “I have a new level of appreciation for nature and the beauty God provides,” Shawne explains.

She then adds, “Don’t get me wrong. This has also been a time of fear and isolation, where I pray for the health of my community, for those who have lost loved ones, and for the full recovery from the financial devastation.” Still with her endless compassion, Shawne cannot help but hold out hope for better days ahead. “

I know the love we all have for one another will be able to be expressed in new ways, in more sincere ways, when we get through this.”

Mock & Moore Gallery
2215 Postoffice Street | 409.209.2039
www.MockAndMooreGallery.com

René Wiley, René Wiley Gallery

The prolific René Wiley typically schedules her ongoing gallery exhibits and seasonal series of paintings to correlate with ArtWalk, usually held every six weeks. So after the March ArtWalk, she began her usual, periodic respite before she started preparing for April.

“I usually take time to work in the garden and recharge,” she explains, but this time, the respite lasted a little longer than normal. After the world came to a sudden standstill, René admits, “I felt confused a bit about where to focus and what to do.”

The most confusing part was that her daily life had not been greatly affected. “I am somewhat of an isolationist already,” she says. “I work in my studio, I work in my garden, I don’t have a huge amount of social interaction even during regular times.”

Even so, René says that the emotional effects of the circumstances were still palpable, as they have been for everyone, even those whose daily lives have not changed much. “So, I just continued to spend a lot of time in my garden, and after a while I started to get in touch with that sense of ‘normal’ again,” she recalls.

A welcome distraction arose when René was asked to care for some new baby chicks on her daughter’s farm while she and her husband were away. “It terrified me at first,” she laughs. “I was worried I would do something wrong, or something would happen. But once I got over that, it was such a joy to be in the barnyard, spending time with the animals.”

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Above are two paintings featured in Galveston Art League’s new virtual art show and online sale. “Out to Lunch” is a watercolor by Fontaine Jacobs and “Nereid’s Rising” is a watercolor collage by Jackie Liddell. On opposite page René Wiley stands next to recent paintings.

These times spent in the garden and the barnyard ultimately translated into inspiration for her Spring series, a brightly colored celebration of nature. “There are a lot of birds in the garden, and chickens of course, and ducks. I have had some beautiful hummingbirds in the garden recently,” says René of her present subjects.

Of course, nature has always been a preferred theme for René’s stunning brushwork that elevates mere impressionism with a pleasing structure and satisfying symmetry, but an increased interest in the outdoors seems to be mounting across the population.

“It is interesting how the ‘time of the COVID’ as my husband calls it, is bringing people back to nature,” René says.

“The lifestyle that my family and I have rejected - where you run out of the house every morning and only have time at home on weekends, but then you have all these other things to get done on the weekend - now people have time to enjoy their homes, they have the peace to look around and love their own space.”

Certainly not immune to the changing tides herself, René has also embraced the “break” in routine of her own life and artistic career. “It is disconcerting. You don’t know where it’s going to lead or when it’s going to end,” she says.

“But anytime there is a change - something that causes life to veer in another direction - we need that. I have been painting for eleven years straight. It’s nice to take the time to sit in the shade.”

As for what exactly is to come for the gallery in the upcoming months, René is taking it as it comes. “I’m just going to paint and see where it goes. No matter what happens, the gallery will always have art.”

René Wiley Gallery
2128 Postoffice Street | 409.750.9077
www.ReneWileyGallery.com

Galveston Art League
New Online Sale to Support Local Artists

Galveston Art League, a non-profit organization that has served local artists since 1914, is pleased to announce the launch of their new virtual art show and sale of regional artists’ work.

The virtual store will be online through May 25 and can be found at GalvestonArtLeague.com. Click on the “May Show” button which will direct viewers to photos of the diverse art available for purchase via PayPal. For other payment options or for more information about a particular item, contact GAL directly at 409.938.1671 or Gallery2117@gmail.com.

All 2D artworks in the show, which include oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, photography, and collage, are ready to hang. Most of the pieces are framed, and some are wrapped canvases. Local purchasers can arrange for free delivery or call or email to set up a pickup appointment at the GAL Gallery located at 2117A Postoffice Street in downtown Galveston.