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Martha Armstrong: New Paintings: Vermont, Mt. Gretna, Tucson, Rebekah Callaghan: Quiet Season + Bethann Parker: Interwoven

“Nature is the inspiration, something to hang on to, to put my feet on the ground.”

- Martha Armstrong

Gross McCleaf Gallery is pleased to present Martha Armstrong’s recent works in New Paintings: Vermont, Mt. Gretna, Tucson. A lifelong devotee of the natural world and the art of painting, Armstrong has honed her distinct perspective, and style of formal expression, through her decades-long practice. This compelling collection of landscape paintings features Armstrong’s favorite muses such as trees, sunsets, clouds, and water from her oft visited and most cherished locales.

Armstrong’s paintings relate to American modernists such as Milton Avery, Arthur Garfield Dove, and Charles Burchfield, yet remain strikingly original and fresh. Her compositions are carefully constructed and feature her signature, sometimes interlocking, shape-based similitudes. She explains, “Abstract painting fascinates me. But in the end, I want something specific from the world I see.”

Rather than capturing individual leaves or blades of grass, Armstrong focuses on the dynamic fluctuations of color and light she observes in her landscapes. She also likes to paint a subject over and over, noting, “I paint what is available. I don’t think of past paintings when I begin a new painting. I look at the landscape as it is that day. It is enough to concentrate on that and it will be different in the afternoon––and the next day––and next week or whenever I get back to it.” This patient approach can span days, weeks, or longer, and as the landscape itself changes, she updates the painting to reflect newly observed visual relationships. She builds up layers of paint and scrapes them away, continuing this pattern until every fragmented, richly detailed part relates to the whole. Colors and forms shift, reflecting a series of complex movements and rhythms, until the painting comes together. Through this process, she deftly conjures familiar, dynamic moments such as swirling leaves in the wind, flickering sunlight on branches, and the vivid hues that emanate from the setting desert sun.

Largely inspired by natural landscapes, Armstrong states, “I have always loved being outside: Taking a back road to school, wandering in woods near our house, exploring lumberjack roads near my grandmother’s summer cottage in Michigan. There was so much to learn—trees, plants, birds, animals—all alive. How to translate that huge moving space onto a canvas has always fascinated me.” She continues, “I look to anyone for ideas, examples I admire. But the need is to find your own voice. A hard thing to do. I must paint my truth.” Her latest works assuredly reflect both her fascination and her truth, while also conveying the mastery gained from her earnest and long-standing engagement with painting her beloved landscape scenes.

Martha Armstrong has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums across the United States. Her exhibitions have received press coverage in Art in America, The New York Times, The New Yorker and Philadelphia Inquirer as well as many magazines, blogs, books, and catalogs. Many prestigious public institutions have acquired her works including The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, The Free Library of Philadelphia, Allentown Art Museum and colleges, banks, schools, and offices across the country. She is a visiting instructor and critic, most recently teaching at Mt. Gretna School of Art in Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania, and the International Center for the Arts in Montecastello di Vibio, Italy. She lives and works between West Dummerston, Vermont and Tucson, Arizona.


"The more I paint, the more kinds of beauty I see in the world. Even driving home on the dreariest day looks more colorful after painting. I try to put these discoveries back into the work.”

- Rebekah Callaghan

Gross McCleaf Gallery is thrilled to present Quiet Season, the latest exhibition by Rebekah Callaghan, featuring sensitive and color-rich abstractions that reflect her botanical inspirations. With Quiet Season, Callaghan debuts a muted, neutralized palette, a departure from the vibrant pink and green hues of her past shows, and invites viewers to explore the quiet magic and mystery within each hushed detail of her works.

For Callaghan, the act of painting is more than a daily habit or discipline; it’s a profound form of inquiry and a metaphorical touchstone. Her works explore formal elements of fine art, such as light, color, and shape, yet it is through initial drawings and studies that she gains a better understanding of spatial relationships. Callaghan explains, “I love when positive and negative forms reverse or share roles. These spaces are so intimately intertwined; in fact, they need each other. So, I want to give them equal responsibilities on the surface.” Significant attention is also paid to where individual elements meet and how their edges interact. Transparent ghost shapes remain from earlier iterations of the work, possessing just enough structure to let the surrounding shapes sing. These interactions take on personality, tone, and tenor, acting like visual corollaries to movements in a dance, lines in a poem, or instruments playing in an ensemble.

Having studied the violin growing up, Callaghan retains a strong sense of relativism when it comes to incorporating concepts such as a sense of time, sensory experiences, and even volume into her paintings.  She notes, “I’ve been working with more muted tones in this body of work. I’m thinking about enhancing color by toning it down. It’s like lowering the volume in the car when it starts pouring rain so you can see better.” And while every detail of a painting matters and can be analyzed for its contribution to the greater whole, there is no idealized point of completion or end goal in Callaghan’s work. As she explains, ”...that’s really what it’s about: getting someplace I haven’t been before, arriving somewhere new.”

Callaghan looks to the works and wisdom of artists and instructors she has encountered through her years of practice and teaching, noting the poetic and often contradictory ways that artists talk about painting. Her late professor, Frank Bramblett, opined, “...what matters most is what we don’t know.” In the studio, the unknown draws Callaghan into new ways of handling paint and working with color relationships. The journey is filled with discovery, surprise and deliberate reflection leading to an open-ended moment of what she asserts as, “...arriving at a place that feels right.” For viewers of Callaghan's work, the unknown provides curiosity, delight, and an opportunity for slow observation and contemplation. The longer one looks, the more there is to behold in these beautiful paintings.

Rebekah Callaghan received an MFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University after her BFA from Tyler School of Art at Temple University. She has had solo and group exhibitions in California and across the Mid-Atlantic region. Her works and interviews have been featured in Title Magazine, Two Coats of Paint and Art Journal. In 2020, Callaghan collaborated with Gorman Clothing, Australia to create a series of fabrics for a Gorman Clothing release of garments. She is represented by Maybaum Gallery in San Francisco and Gross McCleaf Gallery. Callaghan lives and works in Philadelphia.


“Working on many pieces allows me to move freely in an intuitive state, both in emotion and thought. I am mapping and interweaving complex feelings and memories, harnessing relationships, and investigating the weblike thread that connects them all.”

- Bethann Parker

Gross McCleaf is thrilled to present, Interwoven, Bethann Parker’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. This collection features over 40 paintings that showcase Parker’s signature use of experimental textures and layered narratives. The works speak to Parker’s rich knowledge of American folk and modernist forms, connecting the paintings to spiritually influenced artists such as Hilma af Klint and Charles Burchfield, and strongly resonate with traditional ephemera and handcrafted heirlooms.

The surfaces of Parker’s paintings are rich, dynamic, and complex. She enjoys harvesting materials from her local environment and produces her own charcoal sticks, rabbit and venison glues for sizing, and pigments, from scratch. She also incorporates lesser-known products such as shellac, marble dust and distemper into her works, explaining, “Materials have feelings and behave in certain ways. The fluidity of distemper says something very different than a beefed-up marble oil stroke; natural gesso has a sinking absorbency of weight compared to the delicate ‘topholding’ of linen.” Parker poetically combines these tactile topographies with a broad variety of pictographs, granting endless opportunities to portray multi-faceted narratives.

Parker masterfully weaves together an assortment of disparate symbolism in her works. Angels, trees, animals, windows, earthly elements, and water in all its forms, are stitched together in thoughtful arrangements, and meticulously applied to great effect. Often appearing as the landscape, subtly indicated forms can serve dual functions. In the bistable imagery of Woven Flight, an exaltation of larks swoops into a sparsely indicated, sunny sky while the face of a mammalian creature emerges – perhaps a “sky cat” focused on the cluster of delicious prey.

In many works, symmetrical and typically animated compositions lend themselves to ambiguous interpretation. The ledge waterfall in Mountain can be viewed as a decorated altar, or a stage that is about to welcome a special visitor. The dashed, patterned brushstrokes applied to Opening and Reverence convey potent, kinetic movement, while the abstract ideographs in Clearing, and Retrograde offer tacit messages for the viewer to decrypt. Veil and Valley of Wax hint at microscopic, biological cross sections. Thick strands of paint regularly emulate embroidery on areas of otherwise exposed substrates of linen, canvas, or panel, articulating rain, branches, energetic vibrations, and ether.

While references to early American Modernist and Transcendentalist values, Christian theology, feminism, and the occult are interwoven throughout Parker’s works, her own alchemy remains deeply rooted in her spirituality and surroundings. Her creative process is a reverential and intimate journey, one where she regularly invites her intuition, impulses, convictions, and rebelliousness to guide and spark engagement with her paintings. Parker courts magic and looks to birth, death, and the natural world as fertile ground where the discovery of profound meaning is possible. Her paintings seemingly question what is important, and what remains, at the very core of all existence. It is a space where intentional inquiry, patience, surrender, and resurrection can take form. She offers a glimpse of life-giving forces, eternal energies, and invites us to share in her own visual poetry of consciousness.

Bethann Parker has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions including Art at King Oaks in Newtown, Pennsylvania; Anna Zorina Gallery in a virtual exhibition; and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She has received prestigious awards such as the Kittredge Fund, the Freeman’s Exhibition award, Louis S. Fine Purchase Prize and the Richard C. Von Hess Memorial Travel Scholarship for European travel. Her work is in the collection of the Fellowship of PAFA, the Lee Foundation and the Louise S. Fine Collection in addition to private collections across the mid-Atlantic region. Her works have been featured in the New York Times and Voice of America. Parker is represented by Gross McCleaf Gallery and lives on a homestead in the mountains of northeast Appalachia. Her studio is in Easton, Pennsylvania.