Stones, Mandalas and Hazy Seas

A cure for Cabin Fever awaits in area art galleries. Start your tour at Stuart Country Day School’s Considine Gallery, where Thinking by Eye: Art Faculty at Stuart Country Day School is on view through March 11.

Speaking of touring the galleries, Madelaine Shellaby has created “The Grand Tour,” a large grid of small framed photos that is, indeed, the Grand Tour: Florence, Rome, Lyons, Pompeii, Madrid and Toledo.

The title, of course, refers to the 17th-century version of the gap year, where the upper crust and/or artists traveled through Europe to study arts and culture from antiquity to the Renaissance. Ms. Shellaby’s Grand Tour is preserved on 3-by-3-inch photographs of people taking photographs. In one we look right into the viewfinder, in another we see a shadow on a cobblestone street next to shadowy legs. There are ornate churches, butcher shops, domes, a crypt and a canal.

Ms. Shellaby works in painting, clay, found object installation, computer-generated collage, artist books (see some of her work in the Beauty of Biodiversity at the D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center), drawing as well as photographs. Another work in Thinking By Eye is a drawing “Inside Stones, an Homage to Charles Simic”
(pictured above).

The poem, titled “Stone,” begins: “Go inside a stone/That would be my way./ Let somebody else become a dove/ Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth./ I am happy to be a stone.” 

In her drawing, it’s as if Ms. Shellaby cracked open a collection of stones and found myriad forms of life inside. Ms. Shellaby has invented her own life forms, just as Kandinsky did with his biomorphic forms.

Ms. Shellaby has been working on the concept of stones for years, and has created a virtual museum, Stone Stories, the Archive.

”In this Archive,” she writes in an artist statement, “I have collected stories about stones from myth, science, and conversational anecdote; placed actual stones on display in glass paneled cabinets labeled with their stories; created computer generated collages that include scanned stones and paintings; simulated bio tech science in creating my own plant and stones; and exhibited drawings in relation to poems.”

Gallery Director Phyllis Wright is another artist in Thinking by Eye, with a series of pulsing red mandalas.

”I have been working with mandalas since the ‘90s,” she says. “I love geometric shapes and discovered sacred geometry and started finding it everywhere, in all faiths and cultures and even everyday life. Hubcaps and clocks are mandalas, and I have made rubbings of utility covers (formerly known as manhole covers). There are so many things that come in a circle that fascinate me.”

Ms. Wright participated in a healing Sand Mandala constructed by Tibetan Monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery, created over two weeks at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. 

Her mandalas are silkscreen prints on clayboard that have been manipulated with paint. Some become suites of images on a theme. A gift of runes from a friend inspired one such thread.

”Drawing a circle and beginning to design, draw or paint is as much a spiritual practice as an aesthetic journey for me,” she writes in a statement. “At times I do not know where the ‘doodling’ meditation will take me and much like when taking a Sunday drive, I enjoy the scenery and new discoveries while feeling as if I have my hands on the wheel (pun intended).”

The third artist in Thinking by Eye, Deborah Land, was recently seen at the Gallery at Verde. Her digitally mastered hazy landscapes — “Moon Sea,” “Heavenly” and “Jewel Sea” — are inspired by William Turner.

A painter trained in post-abstract expressionism and color field painting, she went on to study photography after her children were born. “I longed to use color as I had with paint, layering veils of color, and controlling tints and shading,” she writes.

Thinking by Eye: Art Faculty at Stuart Country Day School is on view at the Considine Gallery, Stuart Country Day School, 1200 Stuart Road, Princeton, through March 11. Gallery hours: Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-6 p.m. 609-921-2330;

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