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Opening: Douglas Martenson - Transience

  • Gross McCleaf Gallery 127 South 16th Street Philadelphia, PA, 19102 United States (map)

October 4 - 28, 2017

Opening Reception:  

Friday, October 6, 5-7 pm.


Martenson's annual visits to Maine, travels to upstate New York, and leisurely walks through remote sections of the outskirts of Philadelphia, serve as a source for his chosen subject matter. But - more importantly - these interludes allow time for reflection.  Martenson provides not only a representation of the natural world but also an interpretation of the emotions felt, but infrequently articulated.


There is indirect human intervention in Martenson's landscape - the building up and the destruction.  In these paintings, although usually only implied, man has a function as both the custodian and the user of nature and is reminded of his own fragility and impermanence.  Piles of tree branches are burned to make way for new growth; party tents are erected, serve their purpose, and are taken down.


Martenson's paintings fit soundly in the realm of Contemporary Tonalism with its rejection of American Abstraction and Conceptual Art.  In the catalog for the exhibit The Artist's Response to Nature curated by Martenson in 2014, he says,


...the aim [of the Tonalist Painters] was to draw the viewer into the scene, to make the beholder inhabit the space - to feel something.  This is still a relevant objective for the contemporary artist.  Art has often historically been considered a mirror held up against society, a phenomenon that is reflective of its era....Artists working towards this concept of reflection and thoughtfulness are digging deeper than ever into the subject, and their finding and advancements are further enhanced by the discovery by each of his or her own personal subject that serves to best represent this vision.  


Transience, the title to the exhibit, is in itself a paradox.  Nature has preceded and will supersede man's presence, but is forever changing. The artist, by virtue of observation and interpretation, makes permanent a fleeting moment. Martenson explores the ephemeral qualities of the observed world whether he is looking upward at cloud formations or outward toward the meadows and trees.  His paintings offer us the opportunity to pause and reflect so that we might not simply reconsider beauty but also appreciate and be grateful for it.


Martenson is a Professor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and teaches Drawing at the University of Pennsylvania.  He has been exhibiting in Philadelphia with Gross McCleaf Gallery for over two decades and has shown his work regionally and nationally throughout the United States.  

Earlier Event: October 6
Opening: Americana