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Plunge: Explorations from Above and Below

Water has long been the muse for artists wishing to explore its’ majesty and poetic mystery.  “Plunge: Explorations from Above and Below,” at the New Bedford Art Musem/Art Works, examines this influence in the work of 16 regional, national, and international artists.

New Bedford is a charming and interesting town, with a National Historic Park that includes the Whaling Museum and several related buildings. There is also a new Fishing Heritage Center, in addition to the New Bedford Art Museum and several fantastic seafood restaurants. Ferries to Nantucket and Martha’s Vinyard leave from there; the town is just off Internet 95.

Highlighting the renowned gallery browngrotta arts, Ridgefield, CT, this eclectic exhibition presents works in sculpture, tapestry, painting, photography, and fiber ranging from representational to conceptual.

The concept for this exhibition began by a chance meeting of co-curators Rhonda Brown and Tom Grotta of browngrotta arts and Noelle Foye, Executive Director, New Bedford Art Museum who were attending two artist’s exhibitions at Fuller Craft Museum, Brocton, MA.  Grethe Wittrock’s repurposed sails from the Danish Navy and Annette Bellamy’s hanging fish hooks and wall works of fish skins provided the inspiration.

Ronda Brown began a correspondence with Noelle Foye about an exhibition that would bring together those two artists and additional artists whose work was influenced by water.  After browngrotta gathered a good size grouping from their extensive stable of international artists, Noelle and New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks Curator Jamie Uretsky visited the gallery and the exhibition grew from there. Uretsky then selected from these works and curated three regional artists to fulfill the museum’s commitment to supporting regional artist of equal caliber.

Rhonda Brown says of this group of artists, “Some are moved by water as a natural force, for others there is a more spiritual connection, still others are interested in how Man is impacting our oceans and rivers – in each case the results are thought provoking and intriguing.”

Figures moving under water have remained the central focus of Anne Leone’s work since 1993.  Each series develops from season to season with variations in color schemes and the use of individual or groups of swimmers.

Finnish artist Ulla-Maija Vikman hand paints each thread in her artworks.  “I repaint and wash two or three times to get the tones I want.  My inspiration is the material itself.  The vertical threads have their own natural rhythm complimented by the horizontal patterns.”

Chris Drury’s Double Echo combines a fragment of an echogram from flight W34 over east Antarctica – a long cross section of ice beneath the flight, made by radar pulses sent down through the ice and back up to a computer in the aircraft – and an echocardiogram of the pilot’s heartbeat, superimposed over the top.  Drury worked with a team of scientists to make this data visible through art.  One of the scientists described this as a “ heartbeat of the earth.”

Other artists participating in the exhibition are Dona Anderson,  Jane Balsgaard, Mariam Bijlenga, Brigit Birkkjaer, Helen Hernmarck, Heather Hobler, Lawrence LaLsBianca, Sue Lawty, Judy Mulford, Karyl Sisson, and Christopher Volpe.

Noelle Foye reflects, “In New Bedford the ocean environment is often the lens we view life through. As a consequence it inspires and influences the art we make and the art we choose to share. Plunge evolved from the idea of using artists’ visions of water from both above its surface and below to create a body of work that would explore how we think and feel about this universal element of life.”

The exhibition continues through October 7, 2017. info@newbedfordart.org

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