Newport Art Museum, 76 Bellevue Ave, Newport, Rhode Island
May 17 through September 7, 2015
Words: Suzanne Volmer
Before beginning her series of paintings for a solo show at the Newport Art Museum called “Magic Gold, Full Sun,” Corrine Colarusso wondered about painting a sunrise relevant in the 21st century. Could it be done? How should it be done? Speaking from her Atlanta studio, she mentioned the sunrise as being among the most over-appropriated images in today’s advertising lexicon. It frames myriad product placements — everything from banks to cornflakes. She asked whether it was even possible
to be original with this subject matter —and decided that the challenge was to re-imagine the meaning of this imagery for herself and for the audiences that would experience her artwork. “Magic Gold, Full Sun” is both her exhibit title and the name of a painting that people will first encounter when walking into Newport’s second floor gallery. The painting, featuring vivid yellow, sets the tone in terms of the show’s dominant color focus.
Depicted by Colarusso, nature looks radiant. The artist explores the effects of morning sunlight in Okefenokee Swamp and surrounding forest areas of Georgia. She paints portals into a natural realm of beauty, shaping appreciation. The title, “Magic Gold, Full Sun,” suggests blazing energy, which is in tune with the way the painter has stimulated a sensibility of growth and biological activity in her paintings.
ADDITION AND SUBTRACTION
Some of Colarusso’s paintings suggest over-the-top CGI effects, but her canvases are without digital remix. Some canvases take up to two years to complete. The artist builds lushness of content with thin paint layers by adding and subtracting, then adding again. Bits of ground sometimes peek through heavy painted areas, and she offers, “Ground is more of a verb than a noun.”
Corrine Colarusso’s artistic process involves collecting information in journals. These journals hold impressions and are really a shorthand of information, which later filters into the formal construct of her painterly practice. The title of her Newport show evolved from words she noticed on a tag for a variety of forsythia that read “Magic Gold, Full Sun.” She just liked the phrasing and jotted it down. No forsythia appears in the artist’s painted brambles, but the name stuck. Grinnell and the artist both
liked this option as a descriptive show title.
THE TITLE, “MAGIC GOLD, FULL SUN,”
SUGGESTS BLAZING ENERGY, WHICH IS IN
TUNE WITH THE WAY THE PAINTER HAS
STIMULATED A SENSIBILITY OF GROWTH AND
BIOLOGICAL ACTIVITY IN HER PAINTINGS.
Colarusso’s skill bundles within Contemporary Landscape painting, taking stylistic notes from Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” and influences of fin de siècle French symbolist painter Gustave Moreau. Both of these artists explored natural wonder and the miraculous in their artworks, as does Colarusso with her fine brushwork and content organization. Her aesthetic is clearly contemporary but echoes historic lineage. The handling of sky in her painting often is reminiscent of Turner’s fascination with atmosphere and phenomenon. Newport Art Museum curator Nancy Grinnell explained that the museum’s 2014 institutional focus explores environment; Colarusso delivers environment with sophistication. The paintings on view in Newport are from a larger recent solo show at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Macon, Georgia, an exhibit that was called “The Sunrise Show.” This series overall projects the intensity of a worship style in the South that Colarusso describes as call and respond: affirmation and testimony. Her animated hyper-realized sensibility deftly deploys and employs colors that create visual texture and depth. It connects audiences with small and large watershed moments. Each painting prompts the audience closer —inviting them to step into nature.
Corrine Colarusso’s artistic process involves collecting information in journals. These journals hold impressions and are really a shorthand of information, which later filters into the formal construct of her painterly practice. The title of her Newport show evolved from words she noticed on a tag for a variety of forsythia that read “Magic Gold, Full Sun.” She just liked the phrasing and jotted it down. No forsythia appears in the artist’s painted brambles, but the name stuck. Grinnell and the artist both liked this option as a descriptive show title. Two paintings included are quite large. As such these visually and physically impose their presence on audiences to define enveloping sensory experience. There is a force to the artist’s impressions complete with a feeling of engulfing humidity, especially in the darker-looking canvas called “Shaggy Land.” “Hike into the Mystic,” also a large work, is more open and lighter with plant life and rock ledge that seem a slice of New England as much as Georgia. “Swirl Lab” is a rare abstract in this show with lovely marbling that relatesto the silvery blue landscape called “Burning Off.” These two paintings make a counterpoint to the intense yellow found in “Elemental Geography” and others. Working with the tremendously over-wrought and potentially loaded subject matter she originally questioned, Colarusso has come to realize that, “Sunrise connects us to an imagination and reality that is productive; it leaps over irony and dripping sentimentality in order to chart our way back into the world so that we might minister to it, and ourselves, more mindfully. Images can convey meaning. Deeper connections between nature and ourselves are there for the taking if only we can see it.”
The artist says that she is grateful for the accolades she has received during her creative career. Highlights include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a residency at the American Academy in Rome and a Fulbright-Hays Research and Travel Grant to India and Nepal. Born in Boston, she received her BA at UMass-Amherst, then her MFA from Temple University. She taught at Atlanta College of Art and is now devoting attention full-time to painting. Colarusso spends winters working in her studio in Atlanta, Georgia and lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island during the summer months. Her exhibition on the second floor of Newport Art Museum’s Griswold House continues through September 7.