Inspired by the isolation and elemental beauty of Block Island, Heidi Palmer’s new monotypes and oils-on-canvas depict the island’s night skies, rocky shores, remote byways and fields, and ocean views that she finds so compelling. They are on exhibit from June 22 to July 4 at the Jessie Edwards Gallery on the second floor of the Post Office building. The opening reception is on Saturday, June 23, from 5-7 pm.
In the new monotypes, Palmer uses watercolors rather than oils and applies the paint to a rough surface onto which wet paper is placed and then put through a press, creating a very fluid effect. Her new take on monotypes can be seen in the darkly luminous “Night Light.” A dirt road winds along the coast. Dark tones of blue and grey play against lighter shades of blue and grey. Again, bright light glows in the distance along the road. On the horizon, a few white shapes dot the dark blue water and the paler grey sky.
“Gulls” seems to be drenched in water with its white, cloud-filled sky mottled with blue veins, while the turquoise waves below roll in and pool around black rocks in the foreground. The gulls sitting on the rocks and the one winging over the waves are not painted at all. They are the absence of paint with the white paper revealed to suggest their shapes.
The oils-on-canvas in this show include nighttime scenes, not a subject that Palmer has often shown in the gallery before. Several nocturnal scenes have an ethereal quality created by the interplay of light and shadow. In the oil “Full Moon,” we look through large windows to a calm, dark sea and overcast sky. One window is slightly open to let in the night air. In the upper right, seen through the windowpane, the clouds have parted to reveal a pale full moon casting light on a half-drawn window shade, on the water, and across a grassy sand dune in the foreground just beyond the windows. Small dots of light can be seen in the distant dark stretch of land on the left.
Another oil, “Night Drive,” is similar in its other-worldly quality. Like the monotype “Night Light,” it takes us on a late night drive along a coast road far re-moved from the lights of the town. From somewhere in the starless deep blue night sky, the unseen moon sheds a pale light on the water. The dirt road arcs across the far left of the canvas, its surface lit by what seems to be headlights from a distant on-coming car.
Along with these nocturnal works, most of Palmer’s oils are daytime scenes that convey the quiet pleasure of isolated places. She calls several small oils (9”x12”) paintings of “little landscapes in the sand.” Two are of rocks at Clayhead: close up studies of wet rocks glistening in the sand with gently rippling waves foaming onto the sand. “Ebbtide” also captures rocks on a wet beach, with footprints still visible as the tide recedes.
Several larger oils depict the changing aspects of a house and fields on the Southwest Point. In “Imminent,” the warm light falling on the house and fields will soon be overtaken by the storm that is about to break from the rain clouds that fill the sky. “Intrusion” shows the same house from a different angle under a similarly ominous sky. Light falls on the stone wall running from the foreground to the house set against the dark clouds. Black crows in the right foreground take flight into the grey sky — their caws almost audible as they make haste across the fields. In contrast, “Island Cattle” is a serene view of a herd of cattle grazing at the edge of a field. The clear blue sea behind them merges in to lighter blue sky — a transcendent moment — a kind of bovine heaven.