Arts, On Campus

Alston Conley’s ‘New England Sky’ Exhibit Finds Beauty Beyond on the Horizon

Waking up in New England at the break of day and watching the sun sink back down at dusk is breathtaking. In a beauteous way the country starts its day on this East Coast. This splendor has served as the muse for many writers and artists in their poetry, stories and artwork. Alston Conley taps into the magnificence in his featured exhibit, The New England Sky featured in the McMullen Museum through Dec. 10.

Conley, a professor of the practice of art at Boston College and the artist for this project, has been the recipient of various awards and has works in several museums and in corporate and private collections. Additionally, Conley has previously worked as a curator for McMullen.

In a touching description of the exhibit, the artist recounted his inspiration.

“I live under a New England sky,” Conley said. “The light, its color, intensity, sensation, season, and length of day influence my psyche, mood, interior life, and art practice.”

Additionally, he explained the beauty of this daily inescapable reality.

“The long hours of daylight during the summer and short hours during winter define our seasons, influence our lives, and distance us from our southern neighbors,” Conley said. “The low sun, color-rich light, and long shadows of early morning or end of the day often silhouette the horizon or individual trees in shadow, while the light fills the sky.”

Conley’s pieces line the walls of McMullen as visitors climb the stairs to the top level, and cascade The pieces are organized throughout the museum by the time and location. Some of these pieces have simple titles that reflect this organization, along with their colors, such as “End of the Day: Yellow Orange” or “Northern Sky: Yellow Violet.”

The mediums of the pieces alternate between paper and unstretched canvas. On each of the paintings, the artist employed both paint and collage to create the breathtaking skyscapes. The skyscape in the back is created through the use of paint, and there are trees collaged over the beautiful background. But these trees are not in color—they’re black, appearing somewhat like a shadow, which helps direct the eye of the observer to appreciate the vivid colors in the skyline. The detail work on the trees was remarkable, with every line, crook and crevice illustrating the most lifelike looking tree.

Although the pieces appear uniform, each has something new. One day will appear different from the next when one looks at the sky. The trees and the woods scenes in the collages never repeated from one scene to another.

While it is on the periphery of the campus, McMullen is the ideal place to display this artwork. Not only is the building open and serene, it also has a wonderful view of the New England sky streaming in through the windows, casting a bright natural light on the exhibit. It is also far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Main Campus to make the audience feel as if they have enough space to experience these images.

Although some of these images have a peaceful nature about them, others with their bright oranges and jagged lines within the trees evoke a strong passion. There is such a variety within the artwork that it is helpful to have a more secluded, undisturbed place to experience those emotions. The exhibit captures the ebbs and flows that go into the sky and how the sky we live under is ever changing.

Featured Image Courtesy of the McMullen Museum

September 17, 2017