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CompARTmentz: A Look Inside An Artist’s World
By Nancy K. Crevier
Martha LaMarche’s works of art have been exhibited in small venues, including the Office of The First Selectman at Newtown Municipal Center earlier this year, but in “CompARTmentz,” her first comprehensive solo show, the Newtown artist allows viewers to fully experience the journey she has taken in translating the world about her, transforming the microscopic to the magnificent through knowledgeable application of paint and painterly skill. “CompARTmentz” will remain on exhibit through December 31, at AvancÃ© EsthÃ©tiques Day Spa in Sand Hill Plaza.
In exhibiting her art, Ms LaMarche had struggled with the universal idea that in order to have a show there had to be a uniform body of works with a theme, said Ms LaMarche. “But everyone has compartments in their lives, and I kind of view my works as compartments.”
She found several meanings when looking up the definition of “compartments” that focused on separate aspects functions or divisions, but then added one of her own: “In the Creative Arts, a perpetuated fallacy, the expectation that artists ‘speak’ in one language.”
“You can actually see compartments in ‘Escape to Nature,”” pointed out Ms LaMarche, referring to her acrylic painting of geometric shapes, although that was not by design. Like most of her art, it “comes about in a more organic way,” she said.
There is no one language in the 40 pieces of oil, acrylic, mixed media, found objects, photography and poetry that allows viewers to see the inspirations of nature and life experiences that are central to Ms LaMarche’s creative processes, and that show the scope of her works, from early exercises in light and dark (“After Georges de la Tour” and “Brie, Apples, Bread”) and abstracts rich in primary colors, to whimsical folk art pig portraits “Babs (and Bib), New Pond Farm Limner Series.“
A recent 39 x 48-inch found objects assemblage, “Zen Hobo,” towering above the waiting room mantel, and oil and mica compositions “Eco Deco I“ and “Eco Deco II” are among further examples of the artist’s continuous exploration of the world around her and the medias at her disposal.
“Zen Hobo” consists of nine individual painted panels arranged on a large board, each one featuring a small sculpture of found objects. Salvaged from a dump in Deer Isle, Maine, as part of an art retreat exercise this summer, metal scraps wrapped in copper wire from the insides of an old television are secured to the panels with square nails recovered from an old barn. Kicking through the debris that day, Ms LaMarche exposed a random array of metal pieces, reminding her of the 1930s hobo symbols. “I connected that to the present hard times,” she said. The hobo symbols are echoed in subtle background brushwork.
In viewing “The Point Triptych I, II,” and “III,” Ms LaMarche’s mastery of light and dark in these recent works is apparent. Brilliant narrow bands of color angle in to converge on a central point in each painting, the light smoldering upward from the dark background, illuminating the work. They are works rich in emotion, as are the more visceral images conjured in “The Biology of the Biography” and “Giving After the Fall.”
Equally rich in emotion are “Artist’s Mediation” and “Lady of the Lake Shrine,” two smaller works that expose the artist’s spiritual side. Echoes of the Byzantine style are also apparent in the “Eco Deco” pieces, where color and her love of minerals are married, and deep reds and bronzed golds are at play with shimmering bits of mica.
Abstracted landscapes boast intense blues, yellows and reds, and scenes of nature are distilled into an essence of color and shape.
The influence of nature is apparent in her works, and Ms LaMarche admitted that much of her art is seeded in nature.
“I think I have a different way of looking at things, and seeing what is there. If you can focus and take it to the next level, you have the beginnings of art,” she said.
Each inspiration she receives from nature is often followed for a number of pieces or studies.
“Then,” she said, “I move on. I see so much, it would be hard to focus on just one thing for a long period of time.”
Every piece is an expression of her own life’s “compartments,” but put forth, Ms LaMarche said, in such a way as to allow for individual interpretation. People will take what they will, she allowed, from viewing her works.
No less intriguing to viewers are the still lifes, such as “Lemon, Pepper, Lime” and “American Table,” or a landscape like “Misty Oceanville Morning.”
Examples of Ms LaMarche’s photography and poetry draw the viewer into the natural world from which they are summoned, and are displayed in a side room off of the main hall exhibit, at the spa.
A Missing Link
Currently the owner of Mthala Custom Publishing, a graphic design company, Ms LaMarche began work in the late 1970s with the Madison Avenue research firm Yankelovich, Skelly & White, where she managed the information processing department and prepared presentational material for the company’s Connecticut office. It was the one-on-one training she received there that opened the door for her in graphic design, she said. With the advent of the personal computer, she was able to work from home, and opened her own business in 1992.
It was unexpected life events, though, that led her to examine other interests that had been sidetracked. What she found lacking in her life was a link to the creative arts.
“I have always loved art and have been a daydreamer my whole life,” said Ms LaMarche. So she got out some watercolor paints and began playing with them. Then her friend, the late Dr Nancy Schulz, introduced her to a book, The Artist‘s Way, and to Amenia, N.Y. painter and teacher Alexander Shundi. Both had a profound influence on the directions she moved in recapturing her artistic side.
“[Alex] pointed me to oils and that was a good move,” she said. She began studying with Mr Shundi in 2005, and continues to study with him.
She also joined The Society of Creative Arts in Newtown (SCAN), and it was through a SCAN program that she reached a decision to seriously dedicate herself to the study of art.
“The program that struck home with me was one by water color artist Don Andrews. For some reason,” said Ms LaMarche, “it was very freeing.”
She has devoted herself to the exploration of art as it presents itself to her, and to experimenting with various methods of expression, over the years. “All of us learn from whatever passions we’re following,” she said.
“Everyone has these experiences, but not everyone puts it into painting. I think we can’t help but build on [those passions]. If my work didn’t evolve, I’d probably stop creating,” said Ms LaMarche.
She is grateful to the efforts of SCAN business and community partnership coordinator Rosemary Rau, for coordinating her show, part of the SCAN “Art About Town” program, with AvancÃ© EsthÃ©thiques Day Spa owner Melanie Allen, and to Ms Allen for her generosity in providing the space.
“Through this program,” said Ms LaMarche, “people get to know the SCAN members, their works, and the organization.”
In her poem “Woodland Walk,” Ms LaMarche expresses the sensual experience of the deep woods. “â€¦passing walkers / leave pungent chemical tailwinds / the scent lingers / in essence I am / following their scent / in their primeval world / the mosquitoes follow mine / Deet-freeâ€¦/ Â I go home to scratch.”
Visitors to “CompARTmentz” will know, however, that Ms LaMarche goes home to do far more than “scratch.” The compelling drive to a precise expression of her muse is clear in the deeply emotional and beautifully executed collection of works that makes up the collection on view.
The public is invited to an artist reception hosted by SCAN and AvancÃ© EsthÃ©tiques Day Spa on Wednesday, November 28, from 5 to 8 pm. The spa is within Sand Hill Plaza, at 228 South Main Street in Newtown.
Many of Ms LaMarche’s works are available for purchase, or by commission.
“CompARTmentz,” on view through December 31, can be viewed during regular spa hours: Tuesday and Thursday, noon to 8 pm; Wednesday, 10 am to 5 pm; Friday, 9 am to 6 pm; and Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm. Â