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Plants and animals, likely and highly unlikely . . .
Holly Sears, inspired by the Hudson River and the region s rich history of discovery, exploration, and travel, paints a luminous collection of work depicting fantastical flora and fauna of the river.
Her paintings, Hudson River Explorers, are being fabricated for 11 glass panels in the newly constructed South and North Overpass corridors on the Hudson Line beginning at the Tarrytown Metro-North Station. Hudson River Explorers features six above and five underwater riverscapes, populated by groups of creatures. Magically real, the scenes are yet firmly grounded in naturalism. The plants and animals, largely native species, many threatened or endangered, guide an array of exotic visitors through their watery realms. From east to west, from dawn to dusk, the panels at each overpass create the experience of one day. Sears designed her work so that a commuter s trip down a corridor is one of discovery just as journey of the creatures in her scenes. From east to west, from dawn to dusk, the panels at each Overpass create the experience of one day. When you travel, you experience the passing of time in the light and color of the sky and in the river as it transitions and shimmers.
Sears puts her highly realized paintings of the unnatural combinations of flora and fauna under a metaphorical microscope where she meticulously studies her subjects and rearranges them into pointed, almost believable settings. Holly Sears paintings for the Tarrytown Station marks the 25th installed artwork in the Metro-North system. As the MTA rehabilitates the subway and commuter rail stations in New York City and its suburbs through its Capital Program, it uses a portion of the funds for the installation of permanent works of art. To date, Arts for Transit has installed over 234 artworks.
The exotic species Sears enmeshes in the tissue of our local land enhances our interest in the native species, as it speaks to our dreams and imagination.
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Bartholomew F. Bland is Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Hudson River Museum, where he has organized a number of exhibitions related to the art and history of the Hudson Valley region, including, Westchester: The American Suburb and Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture, which was mounted in 2009 for the New York Quadricentennial. He also curated A Field Guide to Sprawl for ArtsWestchester, which examines the impact of the suburban lifestyle on the physical environment. His exhibitions for the Museum related to the Hudson River School are Paintbox Leaves: Autumnal Inspiration from Cole to Wyeth and Greener Pastures: Images of Arcadia. He has written numerous essays and articles on contemporary art and social history and is co-author of the book Merry Wives and Others: A History of Domestic Humor Writing. In his former positions, he organized a wide range of interpretive projects for the Staten Island Museum at Snug Harbor Cultural Center and the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach.
Holly Sears was awarded a commission in 2010 from MTA, Arts for Transit. The original work from this commission is now on view at the Hudson River Museum. Sears' work has been exhibited in a two person exhibition at Tria Gallery (NYC - Chelsea), solo exhibitions at Metaphor Contemporary Art (Brooklyn, NY), Joyce Goldstein Gallery (Chatham, NY), Ruth Siegel Gallery (New York City), Anderson Gallery (Richmond, Va.), and Richmond Artist's Workshop (Richmond, Va.). Group exhibitions include ROCA (Nyack, NY), Central Booking (Brooklyn, NY), Art Gate Gallery (NYC-Chelsea), Art in Embassies Program, U.S. Department of State, Tel Aviv from 2006-08, multiple shows at Metaphor Contemporary Art (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Wave Hill Glyndor Gallery (Bronx, NY), Joyce Goldstein Gallery (Chatham, NY), Edward Hopper House (Nyack, NY), Kenise Barnes Fine Art (Larchmont, NY), The Gallery at Pfizer Learning Center (Rye Brook, NY), Bergen Museum of Art and Science (Paramus, N.J.), Marymount Manhattan Gallery (New York City), Ruth Siegel Gallery (New York City), Churchman Fehsenfeld Gallery (Indianapolis, Ind.), Herron Gallery (Indianapolis, Ind.), Virginia Museum of Fine Art (Richmond, Va.), Fayerweather Gallery (Charlottesville, Va.), and A.R.T.S. Gallery (New York City). Sears was awarded the Basil Alkazzi Award for Excellence in Painting in 2012, has been a three time recipient of a fellowship from Virginia Center for the Arts (VCCA) and her work is in the collections of the Bank of America, Sidney and Frances Lewis of Richmond, Va., American Telephone and Telegraphy, Illinois and numerous private collections. Sears has lived and worked in Brooklyn, NY since 1985.Review:
Excerpted from Scenes From Nature, Buoyant and Surreal by Sylviane Gold, New York Times, August 31, 2012
Are the swooping falcons swimming, or are the darting catfish flying? And what about the floating coyote in their midst is it lofted by air or by water? The delicate wash of blue behind them doesn t really tell you; the one thing you can say for sure about the animals in Holly Sears s painting Hawks is that they are on the move.
That s as it should be. The oil is part of a series, Hudson River Explorers, commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and replicated on glass panels to line the overpasses at Tarrytown s Metro-North station. So the work s intended audience is going to be in motion either dashing on and off trains or traveling up and down the Hudson Line. But until Oct. 13, the 11 paintings that form the basis for the glass panels can be contemplated in a more leisurely way at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers. And with their exquisitely detailed renderings of flora and fauna and their generous helpings of whimsy, they reward careful study.
Ms. Sears s work reaches back to two deeply American traditions, the literal nature paintings of John James Audubon and the fanciful peaceable kingdom images of Edward Hicks, and then upends them both. She asks us to look more closely at and think more seriously about the natural world by gently subverting our expectations, mixing familiar, abundant local species, like white-tailed deer and red-winged blackbirds, with more exotic, more endangered creatures, like elephants and polar bears. She also inverts scale in Ride, the orange-and-black Painted Lady butterfly straddling a sturgeon is bigger than the crow hovering just above them; the black bears clinging to a log in Undertow would have trouble swallowing some of the outsize striped bass caught in the same current.
But as playful as these nature scenes are and I defy you not to smile at Swimmers, with its intercontinental menagerie taking an unlikely dip in a rippling pool Ms. Sears never condescends to her animals. They are not cute. They are not anthropomorphic. They are in every particular utterly themselves, rendered with accuracy and tremendous feeling for the shimmer of scales, the richness of fur, the gloss of feathers. The artist s method of applying thin layers of color until she gets the density she wants lends some of the birds wings a transparency that mimics the blur of motion. And she captures the tremor in a river otter s whiskers and the folds in a deer s ear with eye-opening fidelity.
At the same time, these animals are utterly fantastic, characters from fables yet to be written: The Bobcat and the Butterfly; The Catfish and the Coyote; The Seahorse and the Elephant. Ms. Sears s pachyderms, both African and Asian, are buoyant, weightless wonders. Her cats, both wild and domestic, love the water. In her Edenic universe, porpoises cavort with perching birds. Herons hover in midair with their long legs dangling straight down. And what exactly is that fuzzy little yellow chick doing beneath a catfish?
Because of the laminated-glass technique used to fabricate the panels for the station overpasses, many of the animals on view at the museum are cavorting on plain white backgrounds. But in the fully installed panels the beasts of Hudson River Explorers will exist in a more natural habitat. . .
Ms. Sears depicts the particularities of plants and streams as carefully as she does those of animals. But it remains to be seen if the humans leaving and entering the Tarrytown train station will slow their journeys to join her and become Hudson River explorers, too. They ll be missing a world of pleasure if they don t. --The New York Times
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