Gross McCleaf Gallery
127 S Sixteenth Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Current Exhibitions

Mary Putman, Red Sky in the Morning



Mary Putman
Paintings and Drawings

April 1 - 30, 2015
Opening Reception: Friday, April 10, 2015, 5 - 7 pm

Mary Putman, Red Sky in the Morning, acrylic on panel, 60 x 80 inches  


In her first solo exhibition since 2006, Mary Putman has put all of her energies into a monumental landscape that encompasses her love-hate relationship with the rural past and future.  Borrowing from scenes of her southern Delaware home, Putman creates a panorama of familiar American landscape - wide-open spaces and tilled fields that aren't especially picturesque but capture the ordinary beauty of many rural environments.  The landscape is intersected by roadways that sometimes go nowhere and is dotted with cookie-cutter monopoly houses and farm buildings.  All is well, life goes on – but if you look closely, there is trouble in paradise – a police car sits at the end of a driveway and a medical vehicle leaves the scene heading down a dead-end road; a firetruck rushes across a bridge to what looks like a destination where its purpose is already too late; a tractor sits abandoned in a plowed field. We see rural life and isolation taking their toll on the inhabitants.


Putman has said that some buildings call out and beg to be painted by her and at other times the buildings she paints become stand-ins for the artist herself. Red Sky in the Morning – a somewhat anthropomorphic portrait of an ornate tin-clad monolithic structure which happens to be a western bank – with its fancy, yet ominous, façade, opaque windows, and tightly closed door, may foreshadow the end of the small rural farms that were funded locally and personally.  The title of the painting certainly warns the viewer that something, a way of life perhaps, is about to end.


The two major pieces in the exhibit are complemented by smaller works and architectural drawings – giving an insight into Putnam’s method of working but are rich and dramatic in their own right.     


Nina Athanassoglou-Kallmyer, Professor Emeritae in the Department of Art History at the University of Delaware, says of Putman’s work, “Mary Tobias Putman talks about herself as bonded with the land of her memories. Her paintings of rural Delaware bring together her past and her current experiences as perfectly symmetrical reflections of one another….Woven with this vision of a pristine America is the awareness of a sophisticated social critic…who casts her nostalgic gaze self-consciously, never losing sight of the encroaching growth of contemporary America greedily swallowing up the rustic dreamlands.”


Putman received her B.F.A. from Carnegie-Mellon University and is currently a resident of Townsend, Delaware. This is her sixth one-person exhibition with Gross McCleaf.



Bettina Nelson, "Maybe someday I'll wake up older and I'll just stop all my trying" - Nick Drake



A Likely Story
Bettina Nelson
Leigh Werrell

April 1 - 30, 2015
Opening Reception: Friday, April 10, 2015, 5 - 7 pm


Bettina Nelson, "Maybe someday I'll wake up older and I'll just stop all my trying" - Nick Drake, mixed media, 11.5 x 17 inches  



Ever heard A Likely Story? Bettina Nelson and Leigh Werrell are both storytellers who create personal and private visual worlds but they know when to stop, giving viewers the opportunity to imagine what happens next.  Depending on one’s perspective, these works end up revealing as much about the observer as the storyteller.


Bettina Nelson starts with something that she finds. It could be a thread, a scrap, a color, a shape, or even a fragment of an idea that intrigues her and then she builds a world from it. Her mixed-media collages are composed literally on the pages of blank books using whatever is at her disposal. She works with basic components and threadbare context placing a generous demand on the viewer to see the story simply, visually, and to fill in the gaps. Words are set aside in favor of mood and inference. "Look and see" seems to be her motto with an emphasis on what is shown, not what is said.


Leigh Werrell's paintings deal with stories that seem to be the moments before the action unfolds; where civility and nature meet; where the wild and the cultured converge.

Leigh Werrell, Super Kitchen

Leigh Werrell, Super Kitchen, gouache on paper, 9 x 11 inches

Werrell says of her work, "I bring attention to the wavering line between our tamed lives and a wild, natural landscape, which insistently pushes against our patterns of domesticity."  Her world is filled with the strange reminiscences of adolescence, the "wildness" of life, and a highly developed sense of irony and humor. Her stories depict seemingly ordinary activities that ever so slowly reveal their unnatural aspects. As with an overheard or often-heard story, the viewer gets a partial or distorted visual telling, and never fully knows what happens.


Bettina Nelson is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and a current resident of Philadelphia. Leigh Werrell graduated from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia and graduated with an MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia where she still lives.