NORTHVILLE – In light of the pandemic, two Northville artists have come together to present an exhibit that ponders the positive.
“Concordant Energy” features works from Leslie Ford, the superintendent of Northville Central School District, and Arlene Rambush, who is president of the school district’s board of education.
The exhibit opened at the SVAN Northville Library Gallery and online earlier this month. It includes more than 30 abstract and representational paintings from the artists, as well as several shawls handwoven by Rambush.
While each artist has her own distinctive style, they share certain themes of color and composition.
“Because we’ve taken quite a few art classes together and Arlene and I have similarities in that we both read religion and philosophy and think about those larger ideas strategically,” Ford said. “We end up discussing art a lot so the things that we paint are similar at the base and different at the representational level.”
It’s the first major exhibit that either artist has been a part of and it started as an artistic challenge.
“[With] a solo exhibit, a lot of times you have to create a body of work and I didn’t think that either of us had enough time to do that,” Rambush said, “but I thought if we did it together that would mean fewer paintings for each of us, so I gave her the challenge of ‘Why don’t we do a co-exhibit of our work?’ ”
They were originally scheduled to present “Concordant Energy” in the spring, but the date was pushed back because of the pandemic. That delay, and the pandemic itself, has influenced the work of both artists over the last few months.
“Here we were in the midst of this pandemic, so frightened. I started thinking about, ‘What could I paint that would be really comforting and inspirational?’ ” Ford said.
She focused on the idea of “joy” and represented that with a large work featuring a multi-colored ring, with energetic green lines curling around it.
“We’re surrounded by [joy] all the time. It’s right there with us with all the noise and the discordance and whatever that’s going on in life. Even with all of that we can always reach out and find joy. We have to go seek it, but it is always there,” Ford said.
In another work, called “Adirondack Wakening,” she delves into the joy of being in nature, with falling leaves and birds rising into a cotton candy-colored sky.
For Leslie, each work comes with a story, but Rambush takes a different approach.
“Mine is really abstract, focusing more on geometrical things; just the relationship between line and color,” Rambush said.
“Nebula,” one of Rambush’s works and the largest in the exhibit, is an example of that. It features a dark starry background with a burst of bright blues, pinks and yellows.
“I had been working on that some and I’d put it away and took it out again. Just working on the colors and the dimensions and luminosity, in other words, good feelings,” Rambush said.
In another work, called “Geometry,” Rambush strips everything back to focus on line, shape and color, using vibrant shades of red, blue and yellow.
Rambush and Ford often go to each other for artistic advice and critique. They’ve also started to come to one another with artistic challenges. In one case, they gave each other “throwaway” canvases that had a smattering of random colors and marks to work from and use as the underpainting.
Rambush turned hers into “Dreamscape,” a largely abstract collision of colors, with a few faces popping out from underneath. Ford turned hers into “How Can I Keep from Singing?” which features a green, yellow, and blue figure singing out.
So far, they’ve both received positive feedback on the exhibit, and they both credit Janene Bouck, the SVAN Northville Public Library Gallery Coordinator, for her photography and work in presenting the exhibition virtually.
“She did a phenomenal job and I think this was a good test case for virtual gallery showings in the area,” Ford said.
The exhibition is available to view online at svanarts.org, or in person at the gallery.
“Our hope is that it’s a bright, positive spot in a really challenging time,” Ford said.