“Ways of Seeing, Ways of Speaking: Paintings and Drawings from Two Perspectives.”

The Gallery at Towngate will unveil the exhibit, “Ways of Seeing, Ways of Speaking: Paintings and Drawings from Two Perspectives.”

Featuring the work of artists Clare McDonald and Erin Mellott, the theme is perception.

“For both of us, this exhibit is about the different ways in which we perceive similar objects and how we’re able to translate that into some kind of picture,” Clare said, “whether it’s a painting or a drawing.”

An opening reception takes place Sunday, March 15 from 2-3:30pm. After the reception, the Crazy 8s improv troupe will perform on the Towngate stage. Events are free and open to the public.

The exhibit continues through May 17.

“Evil, Unruly, Smudgy, Dirty Stuff”

The exhibit reflects Clare’s latest artistic interest: charcoal.

“I can remember thinking in high school, ‘This is the most evil, unruly, smudgy, dirty stuff. How on earth can you make anything good with charcoal?’ But I’ve since grown to really love this particular medium,” she said. “It’s mobile and you can almost sculpt it on the paper. I’ve even gotten to the point where I make my own charcoal. It’s kind of exciting to see what different woods create different marks.”

Broken Home by Clare McDonald

Clare said she first discovered her love of painting when she was five.

“I enjoyed dance and I enjoyed painting,” she said. “My aunt, Angela Blight, was an art teacher, and she was always so positive and encouraging. To me, I would create something, and it would look like a terrible mistake. She would say, ‘No, no, Clare. Look at this’ or ‘Look at that’ or ‘You’ve used wonderful colors.’”

Clare remembers getting pocket money when she was 10 and using it to purchase brushes, paint, and paper while the other children were buying candy. When she reached high school, however, she found her art classes to be confining.

Her passion at the time was realism, and she was told it was archaic.

“‘People don’t do that anymore, Clare,’” she recalled people saying. “‘We’re into abstraction.’ But the realism reflected my need to communicate with people and have my art be meaningful to them.”

“It Was Not Part of My Life”

Clare moved to the United States from England when she 27, and her artistic pursuits stopped.

“It was not part of my life and I can’t really tell you why,” she said. “It just didn’t happen.”

Although she still frequented art galleries, she wasn’t compelled to create again until her parents passed away within 14 months of each other.
“It was almost a revelation,” Clare said. “It makes you think, ‘Gosh, I’m the next generation to go. I better use this time well.’ I really examined what areas of my life I needed to put away and other things I needed to draw out.”

She began taking lessons from instructors Pat Jacobson and Mark Fleming and eventually submitted her work to Crosscurrents at the Stifel Fine Arts Center. She had a series of successful showings, including an exhibit in which she became one of only three artists to have all her pieces accepted.

Clare said “Ways of Seeing, Ways of Speaking” will offer examples of her recent interest in bird nests. Over the years, she and her son, David Gaudio, have collected interesting objects during their walks in the woods, among them nests. One rainy day, she was perusing their nature collection, and it struck her how interesting it might be to do an artistic interpretation of a nest.

“It was learning to look not at all the nitpicky details, but really looking at the shape and the shadows and where the highlights were, just sort of doing a very generalized drawing and then making it more and more detailed.”

“You Pay It Forward”

Clare said her co-exhibitor, Erin Mellott, shares her strong love of nature.

“As a young lady in her early 20s, she has got quite a bit of talent that she’s just beginning to fully realize,” McDonald said.

Sunny Flowers with Fence by Erin Mellott.

In her artist’s statement Erin said, “Having autism has affected my communication and ability to form relationships, but art has helped me overcome these obstacles. Along with God, art has comforted me through many difficult circumstances, and without it, life would be so different. Art has been and will continue to be a special part of my life because it is my voice when I have none.”

Erin will also have oil paintings on display, along with a few impressions of Van Gogh she composed for one of her art classes at Ohio University Eastern.

In partnering with Erin, Clare is following the example her Aunt Angela set of helping the next generation of artists discover themselves.

“You pay it forward,” she said. “My aunt passed away a couple of years ago, and I may include one of her paintings from her many trips to Tuscany, Italy, as a thank you.”

The opening on Sunday will be a family affair of sorts, Clare added, with her husband, Robert, providing music and her son, David, running the Crazy 8s improv show following the exhibit.

“I would certainly encourage people to come,” she said. “It’s not a large exhibition, but it’s always great to share your work with people and meet others with similar interests.”