Art seems to fit labels: Contemporary, expressionist, landscape, portrait, folk art, naïve, primitive and outsider. But labels have never been a good way to describe anything.
Two artists exhibiting at the Bucks Gallery of Fine Art in Newtown, Pa., July 18-Aug. 14, Harriet Wiseman (see older post at The Artful Blogger) and Sharon Nieburg (her painting is pictured at left), certainly do not fit neatly into the categories they have been assigned by the art world. Ms. Wiseman describes her work as self-taught, although her work is often exhibited as outsider art. It is at once sophisticated, yet simplistic in theme.
Ms. Nieburg’s work is folk art at its most sophisticated. She creates little worlds on her canvasses, fully realized, simple yet stylized. She incorporates elements of Haitian, South American, and at times, Asian folk art.
Ms. Wiseman, a Philadelphia painter, is married to a prominent physician. She began to paint at the suggestion of a therapist she saw at a difficult time in her life after her children had grown and left home. Depressed, but not sure why, she found a release in art, a way to give form and substance to long held fears and pain rooted in a difficult childhood.
She paints on board, and antique book covers. The subject matter is mostly women, families, engaged in everyday events and activities. They are the women from her childhood, sometimes happy, sometimes serious, and always compelling. Elaborate attire hats and jewelry reveal are commentary on times and places gone by, as well Ms. Wiseman’s background as a jewelry designer.
She begins with splashes and blotches of color across the surface of her painting, which she gradually removes or enlarges and shapes, until the painting she envisions emerges in sophisticated color palettes. The long oval faces of the women are similar to the artist’s own bi-racial, Japanese visage.
Ms. Nieburg considers herself an ethnic folk artist. Though she is Eurasian, her paintings focus primarily on black folk art. A graduate of Penn State, Ms. Nieburg has a degree in graphic design and spent part of her childhood in and around Bucks County, though she has lived in California for most of her adult life.
After several successful shows, and a devoted group of collectors, she took a hiatus from painting to pursue her passion for jewelry making. Two years ago, she suffered from a pancreatic tumor that almost took her life. Fortunately, the tumor was benign, though the recovery was not. The pain, both physical and emotional, as well as months of recuperation, were difficult, and though her physical recovery has been slow but steady, her emotional recovery has taken longer. Returning to the world of painting has been a form of self-expression and release.
The paintings, acrylic on canvas, employing simple images, African-American themes and primitive styles are painted in clean bold colors of pared down images. Her elongated human forms are both innocent and evocative. She credits Rousseau, and Gauguin as well as Spanish and Haitian art as her inspiration.
Simple Lives, Quiet Pleasures — paintings by Sharon Nieburg and Harriet Wiseman — is on view at Bucks Gallery of Fine Art, 201 South State St., Newtown, Pa. Opening Reception: July 18, 6-9 p.m. 215-579-0050