York’s George Marshall gallery unveils “Momentum XIV” and “Atmosphere”

Originally published May 27, 2016 online and in print

Summer might as well start on the wharf by the George Marshall Store Gallery. Old York’s famed contemporary art gallery kicks off its season with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 28 for two exhibits: “Momentum XIV” and “Atmosphere.”

“Momentum,” the 14th annual show for the recipient and two finalists of the 2016 Piscataqua Region Artist Advancement Grant, features photographer Cheryle St. Onge, mixed media artist Carly Glovinski and thread worker Sarah Haskell. The wharf-level gallery houses “Atmosphere,” a solo show of plein-air paintings by York artist Michael Walek’s life.

“Momentum” poses a unique challenge for gallery director Mary Harding, as the featured artists are chosen by the NH Charitable Foundation. “It has to be crazy because she has no control over what to show,” says Cheryle St. Onge, a UNH professor enjoying a whirlwind of recent successes including the Piscataqua Grant. St. Onge is excited to be working with Harding for the first time. “She’s sort of the consummate gallerist,” St. Onge says. The two finalists, Carly Glovinski and Sarah Haskell, work outside of the boundaries of traditional media, and it should be interesting to see how Harding manages such an eclectic collection.

St. Onge’s contribution won’t be limited to photography, either. Harding will show her body of work titled “Natural Findings,” which places personal journals with large prints of intimate black and white photographs. “[They’re] a really interesting way to talk about process,” St. Onge explains the journals. Her finished work explores interactions with nature through everything from the artist’s children to dead animals. “Natural Findings is obviously about death, [but also] curiosity when you’re out in the woods,” St. Onge explains. The photographs work within a hazy narrative, both devastatingly objective and deeply personal.

The exhibit downstairs will show the work of both an artist and avid traveler. Michael Walek paints his surroundings in gauche, a kind of opaque watercolor, on colored paper that recalls the look of dyed fabric.

“I pick colored paper because that helps me find the atmosphere quality. You know what [back]ground will take you in whatever direction,” Walek explains. “So often people look at painting for subject and not the visual language.” Ironically, this approach to depicting a place fits perfectly with Walek’s subject matter, which ranges from Egyptian tombs to New England seascapes. “Painting is the ultimate in how you see a place,” the artist says, comparing his paintings to movie stills. “You learn a lesson by sitting in one spot. You see how a group of people live, and have to figure out what was the most important still to record [an] incident.” York residents and visitors alike will enjoy the opportunity to explore these unique records.

The shows continue through June into early July, followed by haunting photography from Alexandra de Steiguer, beautifully ambiguous narratives from York’s Lincoln Perry and Nina Jerome’s poignant landscapes.