Landscapes, Found and Imagined:
The Art of Siblings
Katharine Bell & Charlie Boynton

5 September – 2 December 2009

Groton Place (a.k.a. Mating Season),
Katharine Bell, oil on panel
Assateague, VA,
Charlie Boynton, platinum print

Katharine Bell and Charlie Boynton are a brother and sister team who often produce work from the same geographic locations. Katharine is a well-known advocate of the arts in Groton and she has organized and curated two exhibits for the Groton Grange. Charlie Boynton has been a student of photography for many years while working as a Professor of Economics and Finance.

Katharine’s paintings are whimsical and droll explorations of family heirlooms, favored pets, and cherished landscapes. Employing colors the Fauves would have found familiar, her brush curls around the details of twisting trees, swans and flowers. She uses sgraffito to etch in the fine details of dresser knobs in “Still Life with Dogs, Horses and Birds” and “Still Life with Horse Race.” She and Charlie have both visited Groton’s much-loved “Groton Place” to paint and photograph.

Hanging in the hallway leading to the gallery, Charlie Boynton’s photograph “Groton Place II” shows us the edge where the trees lean over the Nashua River in low, slanting light. The subtle play of reflections and shadows makes the piece a discourse on light. These hemlock trees figure prominently, as well, in Katharine’s “Groton Place” (a.k.a. Mating Season), with it’s loopy decorative foreground swirls and storybook feel. This painting features squirrels, foxes, a bluebird and a duck. Bell is unabashedly romantic and her paintings have a flavor reminiscent of the recent Walt Disney film, "Enchanted," in which the lovely and enchanting cartoon heroine is thrust into the hustle and bustle of New York City and continues to sing and charm small animals into helping her clean house. There’s an anomaly to having such sweetness in such a setting, and yet Katharine’s work points to the value of innocence and romance.

Charlie works with a product called Printing Out Paper, which has now been discontinued by the manufacturer. The process involves long exposures of a minute or more. The image appears on the paper right during exposure, so no developer is required. The paper produces rich inky blacks and feathery, imprecise turn-of-the-century detail. As an art student at RISD, Boynton was told he was overly academic in his work, and this process that resists an over-reliance on razor sharp detail suits his need to soften that approach.

Their work is very different, so the bonds of familial affection and shared history form the basis of a shared platform from which to explore their individual media. It will be interesting to see what happens when Charlie photographs Katharine’s still life, or when Katharine perhaps paints a scene from Charlie’s vantage point.

Deborah Santoro

Peach Orchard at Autumn Hills in Groton,
Katharine Bell, oil on panel