Last night at the imagine ART Gallery we hosted an Arts Night Out Artist Reception and Opening for Impressionist painter, Catherine Gibbs.We didn't know what to expect in terms of attendance, but turnout well exceeded our expectations, both in number and enthusiasm for Catherine's bold and wonderful paintings. Her show was entitled Passing Through and had as its focus, trains. In Catherine's words:
"Through my paintings I have become attentive to the splendid drama of my everyday world; the passing of light through the day, the movement or stillness of water, or subtle shifts in seasonal color.” But, of late, she has started to focus on “urban scenes, specifically trains.” She says they are metaphoric in that they can evoke playful feelings or convey nostalgia, even loneliness. She sees as most compelling that trains evoke a “sense of hope,” in that, “whether they be moving at breakneck speed or pressing on slowly and steadily, there is promise in the journey;” they “transcend what could be considered mundane to beautiful.”
Indeed, they are powerful because of her use of rich color, large structures which evoke movement and heft, and the feeling of power and energy. The train paintings fill the space with big shapes, bold colors and train yard majesty: big transport machines like big beasts of burden doing their work or waiting on the next leg of the task. In her exhibit, she's also included some earlier work of pastoral paintings lending of wetlands and the diffuse light of the Impressionist's eye. Also, sprinkled in the mix are small and mid-sized paintings of New England warehouse and mill buildings of the Industrial Age. Her exhibit is both striking and subtle. It all works.
But before I go further, I need to thank some folks. First, thank you, Catherine, for creating the work and agreeing that the imagine ART Gallery was the next stop for it. Then, there is Tricia, who has this gallery in her heart (she's really it's curator), and lends a keen eye for atmosphere, optimal placing of the artwork, and then creating a spectacular feeling of grace-soaked hospitality through the delicious food of great variety and amazing taste she prepares. It's all a labor of love for her. Then, I must thank imagineers Jenn Swick and Kristen Hastings who faithfully show up on Arts Night Out, and other gallery evenings to do all manner of things such as setting up the hospitality, making sure the food is replenished, standing at the door down on Main Street to invite folks upstairs, and at the end of the evening helping clean up, or actually host for an evening when we can't. They also add to the bounty of the food table. Thanks also to imagineers Kevin and Janet Williams who always come by to lend support and help out, including with the making the signs on our Main Street front door. Imagine newbies Chris and Laurel Peltier and Lauren Raymond came by to support the evening. Lauren brought food as well and manned the door with Jenn for a while.
As with the TWiNE exhibition of exquisite tapestries, we were delighted by how many people came to see Catherine's work. . TWiNE was the largest Artist Reception and Arts Night Out we'd experienced by far. Catherine's night was not that far behind. There was a steady stream of people all evening. At times it was packed! They kept her busy in the front room talking about her work, and wrote comments in the Guestbook such as:
"Awesome! So beautiful..."
"Powerful; wonderful work. Wow!"
"These are wonderful - varied and with their names take on many dimensions!"
"Another beautiful exhibit. So glad we came!"
"Impressive body of work!"
"Am I hearing the image? feeling the air? the vibrations?" Yes."
Added to our delight for her was all the folks we got to talk to: old friends, people from our past and folks that we've known by name, but never met. We also had artists come up to us and inquire how they might exhibit at the imagine ART Gallery. That's happened before, but we had more folks ask last night than any other night. It was our pleasure to meet and get to talk with them. They're still surprised we're a church. Some at first seem a bit guarded, but as we explain who we are, they ask questions or even pick up some of our literature. A few last night asked Tricia about coming to one of our worship gatherings. That'd be lovely.
Jenn mentioned folks are beginning to know who we are. She said she heard people talking about the space and how great was the experience they had. They tell others on the street to pay us a visit because of the art and the great food. She said someone walked by and pointed "that's where imagine is." So we're getting known in town - a reality longed for and very exciting to us because we want to be of service in Northampton.
Everyone also talked of imagine's gallery being a great space for art. We've heard that from the beginning. More than one person said there was something about the space which made it inviting and serene. People notice the hospitality and the grace extended to them and it moves them. There are "wow, the food!" comments. We've wanted to do just that. One person said she'd been to the TWiNE exhibit which made her day, even her week, and she very much looked forward to coming back to see our next exhibit which last night had the same effect on her. We know it has mostly to do with Jesus being the center of and reason for all we do, and he is in our midst including the gallery exhibits. Plus, we sincerely want to bless people with beauty and grace and welcome. Art can be a such refreshing breeze to the soul, an unforeseen delight to the heart, and an unexpected liberator to the mind. So it's a lovely feeling to see people recognizing we want their experience with us to be special because the art is very well done, the food and hospitality are more than they've expected, and the space is curiously inviting.
So we're 6 months in and have no idea where God will take us in the days ahead, but there feels a momentum not of our making in this gallery work I'm very careful to assume too much because I've done so here before and way prematurely as it turned out. Doing so can be quite disappointing. Reality remains God will bless as he will bless to suit what he desires for imagine's work. Anything else we try is mostly chasing after the wind. We just need to show up each day ready to work, full of faith and hope and love. Our part is really for us to follow him when he calls from one day to the next. I think he's been calling us consistently through the gallery, but we'll see how it unfolds.
I never will relish being a windchaser!