The Page Bond Gallery is pleased to present finding shapes as a way of orienting oneself: Paintings by Nancy Murphy Spicer and Swelter: A Group Exhibition featuring work by Isabelle Abbot, Tom Adair, Steve Bickley, Karen Blair, Robin Braun, Ross Brown, Judy Bumgardner, Amy Chan, Marguerite Courtney, Penelope Gottlieb, John Grant, Robert Llewellyn, B Millner, Ledelle Moe, Tim O’Kane, Ruby Palmer, Fiona Ross, Peri Schwartz, Carol Mickett / Robert Stackhouse, and Rob Tarbell opening Thursday, July 14 from 6 to 8 PM. The exhibition will run July 14 to September 2, 2016.

During a 2010 artist residency in Berlin, Nancy Murphy Spicer rented a bicycle and freely explored the German metropolis, embracing unplanned detours and serendipitous diversions. She recorded her routes in the pages of a city guidebook, which she later disassembled and used as the material foundation for the present series, Biking in Berlin. The artist’s biking trajectories, coupled with painted-over images of monuments, buildings, and other details extracted from the guidebook itself, gave rise to the irregular surfaces and whimsical shapes that characterize this body of work. Built up layer-by-layer through what Murphy Spicer calls “a sculptural process of cutting, painting and repairing,” these mixed-media images have a sense of presence and tactility that encourages an intimate dialogue between viewer and composition.

The connection between this series and the city of Berlin is significant: in the decades since World War II, Berlin’s spatial and political landscapes have undergone dramatic transformations, each adding a new layer to the German capital’s complex history. It is no small detail, for instance, that Murphy Spicer’s unrestricted movement across the city would have been impossible less than three decades ago due to the Berlin Wall. At the same time, any metropolis is, by nature, a palimpsest of growth, destruction, shifting borders, and—as the bike routes in Biking in Berlin demonstrate—lived experiences. The small works on paper in this series capture the dynamic, ever-evolving nature of cityscapes through the visual language of collage, transforming spatial borders, architectural details, and the artist’s own bodily movement into colorful, abstract compositions that incite curiosity and wonder.

Nancy Murphy Spicer received her BFA from St. Mary’s College in 1979 and her certificate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s diploma program in 1991. She is currently an MFA candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In addition to exhibiting installations and works on paper internationally for over a decade, she has also received several academic and professional awards and travel grants. Her work is currently held in private collections in the US, the UK, and Germany.

Isabelle Abbot is known for her loose, impressionistic paintings of Virginia’s mountainous countryside. Working exclusively en plein air, she uses paint as a tool for exploring and cultivating her relationship with the environment. Having spent much of her childhood on her family’s mountain property in Greenwood, Virginia, she has always felt deeply attached to the land; she turns to painting as a means to pay homage to that region, to orient herself within her surroundings, and to “understand the moment when a location becomes significant and takes up residence in our memories.” For Abbot, her work is less about depicting picturesque scenes than embodying the “experience of Place.” The artist writes, “I am a painter of a very specific region and I want my viewers to feel instinctively where these paintings come from.” With quick, broad strokes and a vibrant color palette, she strives to capture the essentials of the landscape: the lights, textures, and colors that surround her, the topography, the time of day and the changing seasons—these are the signifiers that make a particular moment in a particular environment meaningful. Abbot’s paintings of undulating hayfields and hazy Blue Ridge Mountains celebrate these ephemeral details, at once triggering a sense of familiarity and indistinct memory, and arousing a sense of attuned presence in nature.

New York artist Peri Schwartz uses the objects of her surroundings as vehicles for formalist experimentation. In her latest work, she transforms the familiar space of her own studio into two-dimensional abstract compositions. In so doing, she takes the practice of working directly from life to its limits, blurring the lines between realism and abstraction. With a disciplined eye, Schwartz exploits the shapes and angles around her for their formal relationships, turning draft tables, book stacks, and rows of paint-filled jars into enticing symphonies of line and color. The striking interplay of natural and reflected light allows viewers to identify basic objects and textures in these scenes, yet the details and edges seem to dissolve into blocks of pure color and casual brushstrokes. Faint gridlines weave in and out of the compositions, flattening the illusion of spatial depth even further. In both the studio interiors and the bottles and jars series, layers of painterly gestures build upon one another, revealing Schwartz’s decisions to add, subtract, and rearrange objects as she works. Consequently, these images often have a tentative, unfinished appearance that emphasizes the artistic process over product. Neither stagnant nor contained, this body of work thus poses an ongoing, open-ended question about the artistic possibilities to be discovered in even the simplest objects and environments.

Schwartz has exhibited still lifes, interior scenes, and portraits nationally and internationally for over thirty years. Trained in a variety of mediums at Boston University and Queens College, her oeuvre encompasses paintings, monotypes, etchings, and drawings. Her work can be found in permanent collections throughout the United States and Europe, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the New York Public Library; the British Museum, London; the Albertina Museum, Vienna; the Staatliche Museum, Berlin; and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

An opening reception for the artists will take place at the Page Bond Gallery on Thursday, July 14 from 6 to 8PM. The exhibition will remain on view through September 2, 2016.