Gloria Plevin at ARTneo: “transformed through selective imagination”
Like the breath of memory, the works of Gloria Plevin present a moment gracefully imagined and conscientiously realized in a personal consideration of time. In that time there is stillness and then a presentation, and then something of reflection. The works hold that stillness as a meditation without intent to surprise or disturb. But there is cautious mystery that takes from the world and rearranges purposefully and personally – a world that can be touched, yet is tantalizingly elusive to the grasp.
The elusiveness in her work suggests a flirtation with the magic realism of the 1940s and 1950s, and then finds affirmation in her intimate relationship with her subjects. Her interior portraits or flower studies or landscapes are personal rather than academic; they are the life around her that she has created and observed. Her work finds expressive beauty in her surroundings, familial relationships or quiet consideration. In some ways it is a reduction: it is not the world that we are seeing, but the world that she sees. Her painting or drawing is entirely possessed by her eye.
Gloria Plevin was born in 1934 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was raised in a small city in West Virginia, a community that was reassuring as well as limiting in its boundaries and expectations. In furniture shops along the main street, she enjoyed studying design detail and styling. While working on her Associate Degree at Ohio University in the early 1950s, she balanced her business classes with introductory, then advanced classes in art. After graduation, like many natives of West Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s, she migrated north, to Cleveland, seeking a larger world with more opportunities. Gloria Plevin’s intent to be an artist followed her life, like a promise to herself, held close, ever present, as she worked at Sterling Linder department store in Cleveland, married Leon Plevin, and had children.
In 1968, that promise began to be realized as her family began spending summers at the Chautauqua Institution on the lake of the same name in western New York State. Chautauqua was founded in 1874 and soon became a nationally-renowned summer gathering for people interested in broadening their knowledge of issues of the day, deepening their spiritual lives, and expanding their capacities to perceive through the arts. Even today, it is a unique summer place – a utopian intellectual and spiritual village of Victorian and Edwardian houses.
Gloria Plevin first came to Chautauqua because she had friends who vacationed there and enjoyed the atmosphere. She and Leon rented a house and soon her family was staying every summer. Her art blossomed with classes and studio time in the mornings. In 1985 they bought a house nearby and opened a summer art gallery.
From the start, she found expressiveness and comfort in rendering through the classroom exercises, and was ambitious in developing facility with the tools and skills of artmaking. Even so, she knew that what she wished to create was out of favor with the procession of the art movements of her time. With fundamental insistence, her work distanced from curators and critics who celebrated the heroic and monumental of abstract expressionism or the intellectual cool of geometric abstraction. She chose, like many others, to create work that directly referenced their subject, what cultural curator and advocate Lincoln Kirstein described as “painted equivalents transformed through selective imagination.”
Insistent, with her own clear vision, over time her content moved from the immediate to expansive, from portraits and still-life, to her gardens and then to the landscapes of rural Chautauqua County. Those landscapes are lush in noonday summer heat; brisk with bounty of harvest; restful under blankets of snow and bright with the new growth of spring.
The landscapes are at once familiar, but entirely hers. She shows us the road and gives us direction. But, even as viewers we need to follow her advice to herself as she once wrote, “The lesson that I did learn is that . . . I had to find my own way.”
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HARD EDGES: THE ABSTRACTED CITY: December 8 – January 26, 2018
GLORIA PLEVIN: February 16 – April 20, 2018