A trout leaps upward, fins back propelling its surge; a dog leaves a V-shaped wake as it swims across a still pond; a swimmer, or perhaps an underwater spirit, holds a hand forward in a welcoming gesture in the watery green world amid aquatic plants and creatures.
Adelaide Murphy Tyrol takes viewers to and into the water in her solo exhibition “Anatomy of a Pond” at Montpelier’s North Branch Nature Center. Her paintings evoke the experience of ponds and moments in nature — spring clouds dance overhead and in reflections, sunlight catches scarlet tendrils of bee balm petals. The exhibition also includes a selection of Tyrol’s drawings of creatures – midges to moose – and flora of pond environments. Many of these drawings appeared in Northern Woodlands Magazine.
“We are really proud that the gallery has become established and can showcase artists like Adelaide,” said Sean Beckett, staff naturalist at North Branch Nature Center, noting Tyrol’s acclaim and her focus on the environment in her paintings and as a natural history illustrator.
The North Branch Gallery program is fairly young, launched just after the addition of the large multi-purpose room in 2017.
The addition, Beckett explained, “has blossomed into a multi-purpose community space that is used for all kinds of things. One of the things we really wanted to do with this addition is to be able to feature artwork and rotating exhibits that feature local artists.
“The work that we have here, whether photography or paintings, showcases natural history of Vermont and beyond. All the programs that happen here are about that too. It’s a really great synergy,” said Beckett, noting that Tyrol is involved with the Nature Center and has taught art programs there.
Tyrol, who has studios in Plainfield and New York City, is known for three different visual arts specialties. Two of them, her painting and her illustration, are featured in this show. In addition, in her New York practice, Tyrol works as a large-format commercial scenic painter, painting huge backdrops for advertising, and film and fashion photography shoots. (At one time, she painted backdrops for Unadilla Theatre in Marshfield.
“A good part of my professional life has been spent as a botanical and natural history illustrator. With due respect to the importance of viewing nature with a scientifically accurate eye, I find the power of nature to lie beyond the caliper,” says Tyrol in her artist’s statement on her website.
“Upon close inspection, the natural world reveals truths other than analytical ones. A random moment, fully recognized can embrace the spirit and lead us to a deeper understanding of life. For me, the source is contained in the natural world; the process of painting is an attempt to communicate with and understand its well-spring,” she notes.
At North Branch, a selection of her drawings takes viewers up close to pond life. A Monarch caterpillar arches up from the tip of a leaf, antennae outstretched. The beady eye of a turkey vulture in profile looks straight at the viewer, evoking a sense of the creature’s wariness and vulnerability. A honeybee hovers barely an inch above a dandelion blossom, apparently heading for a landing. Like tiny portraits, they let the viewer examine them in detail, also conveying a sense of the living creature.
Tyrol’s paintings consider diverse aspects of ponds. In “Wink,” the smooth curve of the water’s edge hints that the quiet pool is a farm pond. The light dawn or evening sky with streaks of pink illuminates the water’s placid surface, as lush greens of farmland and dark ridgeline recede in the background. In “Moving through Geometry” a dog traverses perhaps the same pond.
“The Invitation” goes underwater. A gentle face, eyes obscured by round swim goggles, seems to gaze at the viewer, hand outstretched in the green depths. Silvery minnows, a newt and stranger fauna swim by amid the pondweed. The welcoming image evokes a sense of the beauty and the fragility of the underwater world.
Accompanying Tyrol’s artwork is a small exhibition with drawings by Willa Whitaker Jackson, a 12 year-old-student at Twinfield Union School who studies with Tyrol. Jackson’s watercolors and drawings focus on nature and wildlife, and include a buck with arching antlers, Vermont birds and flora.