Cynthia Guild ~ At Sea

“At Sea,” a selection of oils from Cynthia Guild’s Freighter Series will be on exhibit from June 28 to July 10 at the Jessie Edwards Studio on the second floor the Post Office building. The opening reception is on Saturday, June 29, from 5-7 pm.

Guild is fascinated by freighters in both their physical properties and their metaphorical implications. She is attracted to their “monumentality, their variety and colors, and the way the light hits their architectural forms.” For Guild, freighters also suggest the journey individuals make through a lifetime of “twists and turns, storms and chance meetings.” The oil-on-canvas “Destination Unknown” is a good example. With its subtle shadings of blues and grays, it contains both clarity and ambiguity. We see the architectural details of the deck, rails, antennae and guy wires, yet feel the sense of mystery and uncertainty as the ship moves out to sea in a pale gray light over darker gray water.

In stronger tones, “Heading East, Heading West” emphasizes the same qualities. Here, two ships pass each other on a calm dark ocean, their dark hulls merging with the sea, while their superstructures are in relief against the red, orange, and yellow sky. Which one is headed east, which west? Is one headed into sunrise or sundown? “Ships in the Night” also pairs freighters in a dramatic contrast of light and shadow. Only a part of each freighter’s deck and superstructure is seen and their relationship to each other and to their setting remains ambiguous.

Guild uses ships “to personify the strength and power of individual will, along with a weariness, and the vulnerability of being immersed in forces larger than ourselves.” “Steady as She Goes, “Happy Ship,” and “Full Speed Ahead” seem to reflect that sense of strength, power, and resilience in their use of vivid color and light to emphasize the variety, solidity, and endurance of these vessels.

“Coming Up the Bay” conveys a sense of the long, solitary journey freighters make. The long lines of the freighter’s red hull and its bright white superstructure are seen at a distance across an expanse of sparkling blue water as it heads toward a port up the bay. An untitled oil-on-paper and a small drawing of a single freighter also convey the solitary nature of these boats yet with an added feeling of the fragility and unpredictability of being alone at sea.