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GMG Presents: Douglas Martenson: Resilience, Frank Trefny: Strangely Familiar + Emily Richardson: Plot Lines

“To me, a field is always shifting, evolving, changing. It is a complex ecosystem. I try to make sense of it, search for patterns to bring out objects, frame them with space that surrounds them. It becomes a meditative state that is romantic at its core. I am searching for the relationship between humans and their always-changing environment.”

-Douglas Martenson

In Resilience, Douglas Martenson delivers a captivating new body of landscape paintings that, while exuding beauty, challenge viewers to contemplate the fragility of our sensitive ecosystems.

At first glance, Martenson’s exhibition showcases a lush diversity of wild foliage found in the fields near his summer lodging in coastal Maine. Goldenrod, milkweed, sycamores, and Queen Anne’s lace are depicted in their full splendor, thriving at maturation in their intricate environments. Each painting skillfully captures the exposed length of these species, from stem to flower. Often centered in the frame, each of Martenson’s plants takes on a lively, engaging character, imbued with an almost portrait-like quality. The meticulous attention paid to the surrounding flora provides a profound glimpse into the interconnectedness of plant life.

While many paintings embrace the late summer’s beauty with romance, optimism, and warmth—where pillowy clouds hover against hazy blue skies, evoking the buzzing sounds of locusts marking the waning days of August—some canvases gesture toward more complicated narratives. Foreboding dark forms loom on the horizons of Goldenrod, Far Field, and Dry Field. Their depictions suggest massive, dark trees, or perhaps ominous plumes of smoke. Could our newfound plant companions be in peril? These simplified abstractions never allow for complete reassurance. The beauty of the moment hangs on a precipice. Will the entire scene be devastated by an impending wildfire? The paintings Smoke and Fire seem to answer with two alternating conclusions. In Fire, the flames engulf everything in sight, with menacing billows of smoke in the foreground hinting at imminent danger headed toward the viewer. In Smoke, a group of men stand nonchalantly before a distant, smoky cloud. Perhaps the fire has been contained, allowing for a fleeting moment of relaxation.

The exhibition’s title offers a third option: Resilience. It serves as a reminder to fortify protective systems, adapt, and prepare for the uncertainties of our climate’s future. Like the interconnected fields of foliage, we, too, depend on one another and the environments we inhabit.

Douglas Martenson has had over 15 solo exhibitions with Gross McCleaf Gallery since 1986. His work is in public and private collections, including the Woodmere Art Museum, Subaru Corporation of America, the Federal Reserve Bank, and more. He has received awards and grants for his work, including a Pew Fellowship on the Arts grant, several stipends from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the prestigious Cresson Scholarship from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Martenson is a professor of Fine Art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and is a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives and works in Philadelphia and in Maine near Cadillac Mountain.


“In Peony Elegy, from the very beginning, I was in a nostalgic mood, aware of past times, missing friends: this feeling increased as the painting progressed. All still lifes have an undercurrent of the temporary nature of things.”

-Frank Trefny

Gross McCleaf Gallery is thrilled to present Frank Trefny’s newest series of vibrant still-life paintings in Strangely Familiar. Following several notable series featuring vases in picturesque landscapes, this exhibition demonstrates a renewed focus on complex arrangements set within interior scenes. Like his previous work, Trefny’s selection of objects and compositional techniques provide moments of subtle surrealism, narrative depth, and allegorical meaning.

Trefny’s passion lies in capturing the beauty of life’s ephemeral moments. Flowers, fruit, shells and tapestries are arranged alongside elegant dishware, bottles and vases in his colorful oil paintings. Each element carries its own unique story. Trefny’s titles sometimes provide additional context by specifying the different types of ceramic pieces, whether vintage or collected from non-Western cultures. The surfaces of his vases and dishes glimmer with metallic and iridescent ceramic glazes, retaining their exquisite design through time. In contrast, the flowers and fruit have presumably browned and been discarded, illustrating the fleeting nature of their beauty - an enduring theme in the still-life genre, often referred to as Nature Morta (dead nature).

While the still-life genre inherently reminds us of mortality, Trefny’s work finds levity as well. At times, he anthropomorphizes his objects during the selection and painting process. A small vase may blush with a pink glow, while a decorative box seems to beckon, “paint me!”, and he readily obliges. His compositions convey the evolving relationship between Trefny and his subjects. Vases peek into the paintings from the edges, eager to become part of the scene. In Marble Table With Conch And Pears, the mouth of the vase mirrors its friend, the conch, with both displaying crimped, wavy edges. These nuanced narrative interactions are subtle but rich, adding beauty and mystery to the serene stillness of each scene.

Frank Trefny was born in Greenwich, Connecticut in 1948.  He has lived in Newark, Delaware since 1983.  He received his B.F.A. from Syracuse University in 1970 and his M. F. A. in 1974 from the Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute, College of Art. He also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1968. He has had 10 solo shows at the Steven Scott Gallery in Baltimore since its opening in 1988, most recently in 2016, and has been included in many group shows there. He has had 6 solo shows at the Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia, most recently in 2019 and has been included in many group shows there. He has had solo shows at the Bruce R. Lewin Gallery in New York, the Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina and the Coplan Gallery in Boca Raton, Florida among others. His work has been featured at exhibitions at the Delaware Art Museum, the Noyes Museum in New Jersey, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and The Woodmere Art Museum, both in Philadelphia, as well as other museum venues. Trefny was the cover artist and the subject of a feature article in American Artist Magazine in December 1987 and again in 2009.  He was also selected as the cover artist for Reader’s Digest in April 1995.  His work has been reviewed in Art in America by critic Gerrit Henry and is represented in numerous major corporate and private collections including that of President Joseph and First Lady Jill Biden.


“The title for the show, Plot Lines, comes from both the physical boundaries of a plot of land and the components of a narrative… Working in a smaller framework allowed me to develop many pieces at the same time. It was as though they were in conversation with each other.”

-Emily Richardson

Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to present Plot Lines, a new series of painterly fiber works by Emily Richardson. Comprising twenty-two unique pieces, Richardson’s work masterfully combines fragments of stained and painted fabrics into abstract compositions that allude to elements from the landscape as well as modernist art forms.

Each of Richardson’s inspirations are as deep and varied as the works themselves. Her small wall-hanging fiber art evades plain description, and she is reticent to provide specific insights. The pieces exist in a fascinatingly tense liminal space, straddling the divide between object and picture. They possess physical layers of stitched fabric while simultaneously presenting soft, atmospheric vistas of pictorial space. As she develops her pieces, thoughts, ideas, and connections ebb and flow. Occasionally, scenes surface in her memory from her cycling commute through Philadelphia neighborhoods. At other times, there are fleeting connections to art history or current events.

The works themselves engage in a dialogue with one another during their creation in the studio. Decisions made about one piece may alter the course of another, and Richardson embraces these intuitive impulses and responds accordingly throughout her practice without constraint or strict scrutiny. Some fibers contain moody blues and purples, while others exude ethereal pinks and oranges. Some feature geometric shapes reminiscent of Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series, while others have broad, swooping forms akin to a Marsden Hartley painting. Abstract and open-ended, Richardson’s thoughtful and compelling titles invite viewers to explore broad interpretations and contemplations.

Emily Richardson’s fiber work is internationally recognized for its expressive and painterly qualities. It has been featured in numerous exhibitions, including Quilt National, Fiberarts International, Oxymorons: Absurdly Logical Quilts, Visions, and Art Quilts: America at the Millennium, Quilt Expo VII, Strasbourg, France. Her pieces have also been shown at institutions such as the Netherlands Textile Museum, Renwick Gallery of the Museum of American Art, Washington D.C., American Museum of Quilts and Textiles, Kansas City Art Institute, Philadelphia Art Alliance, and Rochester Institute of Technology. In 2009 an extensive exhibition of her work was presented at the Visions Museum of Textile Art, San Diego. Her work has been published in exhibition catalogs, Surface Design Journal, Art/Quilt Magazine, Fiberarts, and The Art Quilt by Robert Shaw.  

Emily resides in Philadelphia and possesses a background in fashion and theatrical costuming. She has been working in fiber since 1988. She received a 1995 grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the 1997 Leeway Award for Excellence in Fiberarts, and the 2004 Nihon Vogue Quilts Japan Award. Her work is in many corporate and private collections including the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, and the International Quilt Study Center, Lincoln, NE. Emily has been a featured artist at Jane Sauer Thirteen Moons Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is represented by Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia.