Pastels are especially lovely for snowy landscapes, capturing light blues of shadows, lavenders of low light across expanses of crystals, flashes of yellow and orange from brilliant sunsets, deep purples and dark reds of field of snow in moonlight.
Snow features prominently but far from exclusively in “The Brilliance of Pastels,” an exhibition of the Central Vermont Hub of the Vermont Pastel Society. In The Gallery of the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, the show features over 40 pastels by 14 local artists. From a flamboyant quartet of parrots to an explosive sunset to landscapes and townscapes, the artists bring out the versatility of pastels.
For 11 years, The Gallery at the hospital has been presenting exhibitions on four expansive walls in the main floor public space. Curated by Maureen O’Connor Burgess, The Gallery has six exhibitions each year. These are likely among the most widely viewed exhibitions in the area, as visitors to the hospital see the artwork en route to appointments or visits to patients, and staff can see it every day. With every show, the breadth and quality of the artwork warrants a visit to this bright accessible art space.
“It makes art accessible and available to people who would not necessarily seek it out,” O’Connor Burgess said. “Many people have come to expect and enjoy it. Our comment book is full of remarks of how nice it is to have it there.
“It’s great for artists, too. It’s always busy,” she said noting that with the shows, visitors can purchase locally made art, supporting the Vermont creative economy.
Founded in 1999, the Vermont Pastel Society has over 120 members. Open to all levels of pastel artists, the organization sponsors workshops and hosts exhibitions. Six regional “hubs” bring together pastel artists in different parts of the state. The Central Vermont Hub currently has more than 35 members.
“I like pastel painting because it is instantaneous and full of beauty. I can be direct, intense or delicate, and engage without hesitation,” says Susan Grimaldi in her artist’s statement. Grimaldi’s pieces include “Blinking Light Gallery,” a night scene featuring a Plainfield landmark. Against a deep blue night sky, street and building are illuminated by reflected light as a car stops at the eponymous traffic signal.
Judy Greenwald turns to the vivid colors of pastels in her three pieces: a regal rooster in “His Majesty,” quartet of parrots in “Squawk Box,” and fantastic fish in “Underwater Ballet.” “I work fearlessly with vibrantly pigmented colors that clash, resonate and converse in a contemporary expressionistic style. I translate color and light directly from their sources to my work,” says Greenwald, an award-winning artist who happens to be 85 years old.
Carole Naquin’s “Moonlight on the Knoll” is among the exhibition’s landscapes that show how beautifully suited pastel is to snow. In her nighttime scene, a full moon illuminates a winter sky with scattered clouds above gently sloped meadows bordered by evergreens. Dark trees cast long shadows. The snow has a settled quality, reflecting sky and moonlight in its contours and irregular surface.
Throughout the piece, Naquin’s use of color draws the viewer in. Dark blues, purples, browns and greens give depth to her spruces. The bright snow is across the spectrum — light yellows in its brightest bits with plum and pale blue building its texture.
“I work quickly in soft pastels to capture the energy and light of things that are familiar to me: a sky, river, field, a place or face,” says Naquin, whose artistic career has included many aspects of art including as graphic designer, printmaker, and a decade as art director at National Life Insurance Company in Montpelier.