Sunday, September 18, 2011

REVIEW: Bunny Harvey at the Korongo Gallery in Randolph

Magical Pond, Forest and Sky Immersion:
Bunny Harvey at the Korongo Gallery

by Dian Parker

Living in Vermont one is continually immersed in the riotous quantity and quality of color, sound and movement of the natural world. The other day a giant snapping turtle lumbered across my long driveway, bringing my car to a halt, as it made its way down to the beaver pond to join the darting dragonflies. To capture nature’s spontaneous magic on canvas is rare and Bunny Harvey manages to do just that.

Harvey’s paintings lift and curl, dart and fly in a cacophony of color and swirl. She is able to express not only the flights of nature but also its stillness. A wild sky, a crazy dragonfly spin, the pond’s heavy surface, the heat of blown reeds on a hot sand dune, a stately stand of white birch - all find their way onto Harvey’s canvases in a flurry of color, light and shadow. Her canvases are not labored but filled with energy and the crazy patterned dance of the wild; the brush strokes swift and playful, sometimes dizzying.

In Flit and Dart I and II (above), two oils on panel, 12" x 12", the turquoise of pond water is a delicious backdrop for the darting flights of dragonflies in brown curls, lifting and swirling like musical notes.

Three other 12" x 12" oils, Boatman Light, Luminous Darkness and Freshwater Paths, summon the viewer to enter the world of the small and play in its movement. Harvey’s colors are evocative combinations; teal and brown, yellow and black, green and blue. These colors bounce and dart, just like the dragonflies she paints, never resting.

Frank Gave Me a Blue Mountain, oil on canvas, 42" x 42", is a large painting in deep blues and green. A center swatch is carved out where a gleaming mountain shines in the distance. The rest of the horizon is forested and one can imagine how thrilling it must have been when Harvey’s husband cut down the distant trees so she could have a view of the mountain, drenched in luminous blue light.

There are also charcoal and pastel paintings such as Listening ,The Sky, 22" x 30", in which Harvey uses an eraser on these two mediums to render the light and shadow of the sky and field. The sky is a sweep of wind; the field in the foreground blowing and billowing. Kelsey Mountain Light, 26" x 40", has three bold panels of forest and sky. A storm is brewing over the pines in two of the panels and in the third, the bare trunks of white birch stand still and silent, waiting.

Harvey said, "The pieces exhibited here at Korongo are particular examples of work in which everything around me animates my awareness of the shifting winds, the songs of insects and birds, the scent of hay and manure, even the interruption of a distant chainsaw, all find their way onto the canvas." Indeed. Her paintings are animated in their often furious strokes. The colors are lively and rich, evoking the texture of woods and water, of sky and earth.

When Bunny Harvey was only 28, she received the coveted Rome Prize award and spent two years in Rome. She has remained a member of the Society of Fellows to this day, nearly 40 years later. It is a testament to her commitment as a painter that she has worked and shown her work all these years, ever since 1976. Darting like her beloved dragonflies all over the world, she has created patterns of light and love.

This review was first published in the Herald, Randolph, September 15, 2011.

Flit and Dart I and Flit and Dart II, oil on panel, 12" x 12"
Listening, The Sky, charcoal and Pastel on paper, 22" x 30"