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Review: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

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“The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” is comprised of five young artists, hung along the narrow walls of Sulloway & Hollis law offices in Concord, New Hampshire. The unconventional setting provided meaningful context for the work presented here, all of which had power beyond just a pretty picture.The displayed work is grounded in location, with paintings and photographs, including interior and exterior environments, of the New Hampshire area, but in a way that feels refreshing and reflective beyond the obvious charm of the state.

The show’s  title is after Carson McCullers’ bittersweet novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, and was chosen to conjure the feelings of memory, longing, and reflection. Each artist’s work feels true to this theme with the pieces providing personal narratives of the artist’s own memories and observations, but still leaving room for the viewer to bring their own experiences to form a collective picture.

Abba Cudney in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Abba Cudney’s monotypes and small paintings of interior spaces hung just through the storefront entrance. Her pieces fed into the main exhibition space of the gallery featuring her work alongside that of four other artists. Lining the entire room is work ranging from photographs of local urban night scenes from Phil Cifone, to somber and expressive portraits by Meghan Cochran, and gestural figurative paintings from Isaiah Gulino. Mike Howat’s articulate, pale, and isolated observations of New Hampshire’s architecture juxtaposed with more of Cudney’s chaotic and saturated interior scenes on opposing walls provided a stark contrast threaded with realized introspection. All of the shown artists are graduates of The New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester, NH and have returned to a familiar setting to show together.

Howat described how this idea has impacted the way he’s selected architectural subjects. He told me that the choice to paint isolated and simple structures is so they can function as a shell, allowing him to inject his own voice into the scenes through the actual application of the paint. Howat’s beautifully observed and voyeuristic paintings are reminiscent of masters like Wyeth and Hopper. They feel inherently nostalgic, like you could look out your car window in any New England town and observe them. This draws up memories inside the viewer's mind, causing them to pause and ask, “Have I been here before?”

Mike Howat in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

On the opposing wall hang Cudney’s paintings and monotypes. While also connected with geography of the area, focuses more on intimate snapshots in time. The exhibited pieces are a collection of several years during her life as they happened. Apartments that feel lived in, close friends caught in the moment, and places within the state that at one point played a major role in her life are now memories and her expressive brushwork and color usage brings them back to life.

The reunion of these young artists to the state that they studied in felt like a time warp to their college years and Cudney observed that the opening is taking place on the anniversary of their senior thesis exhibitions year prior. The absence of young artists is clear, with events like this drawing much needed attention to the lack of diversity within the arts in the area. Space afforded to artists working outside the standards of tourist influenced landscapes in New Hampshire is slim and seemingly disappearing, with Concord’s own McGowan Fine Art closing this July after being open for more than 30 years in business. The nearest art spaces dozens of miles apart from one another despite being a short commute to Boston. It's a sobering reality causing many young artists to leave the state in pursuit of more established and secure communities, a move most of the artists exhibited here have made since graduating from The New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester. Many patrons of the arts and the artists themselves wish that young artists would stay in the area to help build the community but it is difficult to fabricate. Hopefully this show and other events happening around southern New Hampshire spark more investment in talented emerging artists.

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About Author

Catherine Graffam is a professional artist and writer living in Lowell, MA. She is a graduate of the New Hampshire Institute of Art where she now teaches drawing and painting.

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