Spellbound by Pastels: National Exhibition Rich in Color and Craftsmanship

By Colette Finney

The Holland Area Arts Council (HAAC) demonstrates its formidable commitment to regional art with their newest exhibit, comprised entirely of pastel paintings. Such a large display of pastels at one venue is a rarity in West Michigan. Open through Saturday, July 16, this stunning selection is undeniably the perfect reason to skip the crowded beach and head over to the HAAC.

Lisa Ober chose sixty-four pieces for the Great Lakes Pastel Society‘s 2016 national juried exhibition. The selections showcase a variety of subjects and techniques, so there are examples that will appeal to every visitor. From lush landscapes and engaging abstracts, to portraits ranging from people to pelicans, the walls are generously covered with unbridled creativity.

Helen Kleczynski Old Blue                                            Old Blue, Helen Kleczynski

Oftentimes, I wonder what factors are weighed in awarding prizes to the top entries in a competition. But after viewing Old Blue, by Helen Kleczynski of Vicksburg, Michigan, I completely understood why this piece won the Gold Award. Immersed in a visual of water lapping the boat, oars rocking from side to side, I immediately recalled fond memories in Northern Michigan.

Incredibly realistic, I feel transported directly into the canvas of each landscape, all of which are alive with even the smallest of details. With layers of vivid color, seamless blending, and intriguing textures, many remind me of the work of esteemed pastel artist, Wolf Kahn, such as Silver Award recipient, Katherine Irish‘s, Soft Mist and Light. The sunset hues dancing over the canvas enhance the lingering mist over the water, capturing the scene exquisitely.

Footsteps 15 Linda Brown                         Footsteps #15, Linda Brown

Two of my favorites are winter landscapes. Footsteps #15 by Linda Brown, is an impressive scene, both realistic and magical. From the depth of the footprints and lingering shadows of bare trees, to the rays of light casting glimmers on the drifts, I am both mesmerized and confounded by just how delicately Johnson brought out the sparkle in the snow. Using an equal balance of skill and spirit is Becky Johnson‘s Sounds of Spring, the Bronze Award winner. It is a image which evokes hope of a more pleasant season buried under the layers of melting snow. I am especially intrigued by the artists’ use of white, and how it can be employed to describe both luminosity and darkness as seen in Brown’s entry, as well as the two Deep Blue panels by James DeBoer.

James DeBoer Deep Blue 2
Deep Blue 2, James DeBoer

Chalk pastels have existed since the Renaissance, but became especially popular in the 18th century. Unlike paint which can be mixed on a palette prior to application, pastels have to be blended directly on the active surface. Furthermore, errors are very difficult to fix. Despite the inherent challenges of the medium, pastels were easier to transport that most other colored media, and offered results as saturated as oil painting, but without the drying time. Learning about the skill and effort necessary to complete a work with such challenging materials makes me admire this medium even more.

The Great Lakes Pastel Society was formed in 1997 and has now grown to members in twelve states, which clearly reflects in the diversity of the pieces chosen for this exhibit.

Great Lakes Pastel Society juried exhibition can be seen in the Padnos Gallery through July 16. For more information, contact the HAAC at (616) 396-3278 or online at hollandarts.org.

The Holland Area Arts Council
150 East 8th Street
Holland, Michigan 49423

Hours of operation:
Monday-Thursday  10AM-8PM
Friday                     10AM-5PM
Saturday                 10AM-3PM


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