Carrie Megan ~ Summer Reflections

Summer as a season of ease and freedom is the subject of “Summer Reflections,” Carrie Megan’s new works in oil and oil-and-cold wax, that are on exhibit at the Jessie Edwards Gallery on the second floor of the Post Office building from August 9-22. The opening reception is on Saturday, August 10, from 5-7 pm.

This sense of ease and freedom is seen in subject matter and technique and comes from a change Megan made about five years ago. For many years, Megan’s subject was botanical art — a form that requires meticulous depiction of the exact details of the subject using fine, delicate brushes and a palette faithful to the real colors of the plant. Megan shifted to landscape painting and began experimenting with oils and oils-and-cold wax. Cold wax is the consistency of paste. When mixed with oils, it produces a transparent, matte finish. She changed from using very fine brushes to larger, inexpensive chip brushes, which allow her to use looser strokes, and to palette knives, which create texture.

“Barn Again,” “Shelburne Farms #10,” and “Summer’s End” are examples of these methods. All three began from original photos of specific places. Megan reworked the subjects in her studio using many layers of oil and cold wax. They became more abstracted, textured works that recall the original places but are simplified to their essential qualities. “My goal is to distill the elements that characterize each particular landscape,” she said.

To accomplish this, many of Megan’s pieces are done en plein air and in one sitting to capture the immediate mood. At the same time, she likes to use her imagination to simplify the specific scene, “to pare down to the essential elements” so that viewers are stimulated to use their imaginations and are drawn into a sensory experience. For example, several scenes are of salt marches, ubiquitous features of a New England coastline. “Salt Marsh Dreaming,” “Marsh Wind,” Drifting Along, “ and “Bridal Path Marsh” all capture the essence of a salt marsh with its tall grasses and meandering streams, but each scene offers a different aspect and atmosphere — one dreamy and languid, another bright with diffuse light, and another in motion with the zig-zag line of water through the grasses to a wider body of water beyond.

“Bridal Path Marsh” is also a good example of Megan’s use of unusual colors, not what she calls traditional landscape colors of earth tones. She prefers bright, vibrant colors, so where she wants warm, bright colors, instead of using reds or yellows, she will use violet against cooler greens. A startling streak of orange defines the green in the foreground and the blue hedgerow, trees, and sky in “Barn Again.” Similarly, the use of a vivid purple in “Looking Out” stands out against the green field and blue sky and casts shadows on the white lighthouse. The lighthouse in this scene recalls the North Light in its essential, simple lines, yet it could be another solitary lighthouse along the New England coastline.

Megan’s fascination with the sky runs through many of her works. In particular, “Coastline,” “Towards the Sky,” and “Skylight” emphasize the essential elements of the time and place — the serene colors of sand and sky in “Coastline” are sharpened by a band of red at the horizon. Big, cloud-filled skies dominate “Towards the Sky” and “Skylight,” while subtle strokes of soft purple on the salt marsh and in the sky heighten our awareness of the shifting light and shadows, inviting the viewer to reflect on the fleeting moments of summer’s ease and freedom.