“There is tactility to thread, both in process and result, that is intrinsic to the senses. As I layer thread on thread, pigment on pigment, I consider each of my movements as a means of evolving a surface individually in order to properly capture the essence of each composition.”
- Natasha Das
Textures created with thread are to Natasha Das what brushstrokes are for other artists: fundamental, visceral, expressive elements. Das’ labor-intensive compositions convey her unique voice by representing an engagement with both abstraction and the weaving tradition of her native India, lending an autobiographical component to her work.
Das consciously envisions and determinedly places each and every stitch. Her technique of applying layers of thread to her oil paintings creates rich surface textures that percolate and vibrate with intensity. The brightly painted blocks of color intertwine seamlessly with intricate, meticulous hand-stitching and culminate in a unified, harmonious presentation.
In the artist’s own words, “While constructing my thread works, there can be an inclination to coordinate the placement of certain colors next to their natural pairs. The color theory aspect of my painting training has hardwired my brain to react this way. Opposing this inclination unlocks another part of my brain. This one is solely based around material and emotion. Repeatedly piercing the canvas with my needle and thread, I have no set end goal. I simply stitch until I begin to build texture. Experimenting with texture in this way allows for a thorough exploration of the material itself. Through these experiments, I have begun to better understand what process as a term refers to. It is not a set of rules. It is a set of actions.”
By Independent Curator, Angelica Semmelbauer
Natasha Das is an Indian-American artist living and working in New York City. She earned her BFA from Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy and studied at the Art Students League of New York. Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to present Natasha’s first solo exhibition in Philadelphia.
“As a child I longed for light as I wandered the dark, dense woods behind our house in suburban Boston. Stone walls snaked in every direction, evidence of the early farmers need to create open space so that their crops could grow and animals graze. The Missouri family farm was and is a whole different ballgame. The long, wide, flat horizons seem to bring the sky closer to earth. The squared off order of the fields and roads give everything a kind of compositional clarity. The visual structure and intensity of the sky’s light has a visual power lacking in the east. To look up and be startled by a quickly approaching dark purple thunder storm, the soft pinks and yellows of a winter sunrise, or a swarm of cliff swallows feasting on a new hatch of mayflies above the Missouri River is to feel connected to the larger world. These paintings are a celebration of those and other joys.”
-Max Mason III
A sense of wistful longing and childlike wonder can be found in Max Mason’s landscape oil paintings, depicting mid-Missouri vistas. Well known for his baseball-themed works, Mason has shifted to another quintessentially American subject - the family farm. Mason’s family farm is located in western Missouri, where he spent his summers as a child. He returns frequently to experience the gently rolling plains, rushing turbulent rivers and dramatic storm clouds that grace his expansive landscapes.
Many of the paintings are dedicated to the large, Midwestern sky, which often takes up more than two-thirds of the canvas. Each work creates a unique mood. Mason uses his expressive brushwork to depict specific, sometimes nameable cloud formations, as well as the transient moment when early evening light disappears into night. The artist’s brushstrokes bounce and curve to create form; they churn and swirl to depict an approaching storm, and they stretch above the viewer to create a canopy of lights and shadows. Long country roads lead toward the horizon and beyond, inviting the viewer into the painting and into a lush, rural world.
Max Mason grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts. After graduating from Vassar College with a degree in Geology in 1975 he came to Philadelphia in 1981 to study at the University of Pennsylvania with landscape painter Neil Welliver. He is represented by the Gross McCleaf Gallery where he has shown his landscape, still life and baseball paintings since 1985.
Short & Sweet is a collection of mini exhibitions, each offering a taste of works by a Gross McCleaf artist. The show includes Giovanni Casadei’s en plein air beach scenes and a selection of his atmospheric still life interiors. New artist Rhea Cutillo presents environmentally conscious landscape paintings and gallery regular, Ying Li, offers lusciously rich and densely painted canvases. Scott Noel’s skillfully executed portraits and still lifes, Jeffrey Reed’s compact yet expansive vistas, Val Rossman’s selection of expressive and geometric abstractions, and a selection of luminous diminutive landscape scenes by Thomas Paquette round out a rich and diverse exhibit.