Flora, Fauna and Fantasy: It’s All Natural At Fountain Street

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November/December 2016
Monday, October 31st, 2016, 1:53 pm
by Meredith Cutler

 Anne Sargent Walker,  Mullein with Goldfinch , oil and acrylic on wood panel, 16” x 16”.

Anne Sargent Walker, Mullein with Goldfinch, oil and acrylic on wood panel, 16” x 16”.

Not 48 hours after an editorial obituary for the Great Barrier Reef sent viral waves of indignation through social media, I found myself staring into the flat depths of artist Mary Spencer’s imaginary oceans. The news story turned out to be an exaggeration; the Great Barrier Reef is not quite dead — just “almost” dead. But the damage was done. Visions of over a thousand miles of bleached coral left a collective retinal impression, the tipping point of Mother Nature rendered in textured bone-whites and rippling blues.

On exhibit at Fountain Street Fine Art, as part of its “Wind and Water” exhibition, Spencer’s strangely flat “Fossil Fantasies” are undersea views with luminous, matte background blues strung with low relief, reef-like details. Some incorporate actual plant matter, like her painting “Squid and Coral Fan,” whose foreground
peninsula includes an embedded skeletal fan-like flora.

Drifting silently in these flat environments are multitudes of sea creatures. Long, thin squid, mysterious chambered nautili, sand dollars, octopi and trilobites. These life forms look ancient, caught motionless in stark black and white, as if a flash bulb or flare has momentarily illuminated their silent life in the depths. Spencer explains that her denizens of the deep, rendered in acrylic on panel, are imagined from parts of creatures, while some are “pure fantasies.”