Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bruce Nellsmith Touched by Cezanne

City Art is proud to present the new works of its long-time painter, Bruce Nellsmith. The new solo exhibition is titled “Homeland” and reflects upon Nellsmith’s favorite places, ones that feel the closest to his heart. This show reveals Nellsmith’s inspiration found while exploring Cezanne in France earlier this year. The collection of oil paintings can be seen through December 30.
Nellsmith received his BFA from the University of Georgia and his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Nellsmith has been teaching art at Newberry College since 1988 and currently serves as the Art Department Chairman. He has been selected for a number of exhibitions around the Southeast and his work is included in many private, state, and public collections all over South Carolina and the South.

“Homeland” is a complex multi-layered exhibition at City Art, sharing the deep impact of the artist’s latest trip to France. The word “Homeland” can be interpreted in many ways, especially in today’s highly politicized post 9/11 world, but City Art’s current exhibition strictly focuses on what it means to Nellsmith. Visiting the gallery, the art lovers will find that “Homeland” is not just comprised of works detailing a single city the artist lived in. Instead, it is a combination of many places, cities and mountains which create the sensation of “Homeland” for Nellsmith. In his world, there are no geographic or political boundaries; “Homeland” is simply what feels like it is to him. “Homeland” is the combination of cities such as Atlanta, New York, Paris, and Columbia together with hills, mountains and cliffs in France as well as in the United States.

“What joins them in my mind is emotional, psychological, and experiential. These motifs represent significant places in my past, my present, and most probably my future.” Says Nellsmith about the multiple locations represented in the show. In describing his method Nellsmith notes that “Simply put, my message depends upon the manipulation of paint and the responses that process invoke in me. I find my way into a painting and, as DeKooning put it, I then have to paint my way back out, even though I feel as if I am never fully released.”

Just like most artists constantly looking for inspiration and the true art and beauty, Nellsmith spent a few weeks traveling in France and Provence following Cezanne’s life and works. Walking on the streets of Paris, which was the homeland of the impressionism and the world capital of 19th Century art, Nellsmith not only found deep connections to the city but also to the sensation of Homeland and to his own roots. The artist’s family can be traced back to France and this last visit woke up this lost connection inside Nellsmith.

He explained the feeling as follows: “I felt at home in Paris, more so than any city that I have experienced-like I was made for it or was made out of it. Drawing in the Bibemus Quarry on the outskirts of Aix en Provence had a mysterious effect on me. Granted, I was there because I was on a sort of pilgrimage to the places that Cezanne had painted, but as I walked among the ochre limestone cliffs that Cezanne had painted more than one hundred years ago, it had a distinct feeling of familiarity to it, as if I already knew it or had experienced it prior. When I returned to my studio on Edisto Beach, I exploded into a series of paintings based on the quarry, like they had been in me all along and it wasn’t an obsessive drive but a compelling love for the quarry. The mystery for me was why should I love it so. I can’t say exactly. Perhaps most of all was its beauty. The stones are the colors of all flesh of all peoples.”

Nellsmith’s new-found connection to France melted with his Southern roots. In his painting titled “La Vierge Marie en Paris” visitors can discover the newly revealed connections between Paris and the United States, the familiar tones he uses in depicting the streets of Paris have the same familiar tone as paintings of cities in the United States. Similar to his previous work, Nellsmith’s style in this exhibit is not strictly impressionist, post-impressionist or abstract but a combination of all. Cityscapes that start as Monet-like quick snapshots of streets often become more abstract canvases, where the selected location is not always recognizable.

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