Until January 21, 2012, Mary Armstrong’s exhibition, Any Given Moment, will show at the Victoria Munroe Gallery on Newbury Street. Armstrong, a local artist and Boston College painting professor, has worked with the gallery since 1985, giving four solo exhibitions in New York and three solo exhibitions since 2006 at Victoria Munroe’s Boston location.
Any Given Moment, which opened December 8, showcases Armstrong’s most recent paintings and her attempts to make sense of sweeping political change as well as the terror and awe she felt after the Japanese tsunami in March 2011. In these paintings, which feature shifting cloud forms juxtaposed against the reflected spaces of marine landscapes, Armstrong drew inspiration from Japanese screens and prints from the Edo period, as well as Georgione and Caspar David Friedrich.
Armstrong sees the paintings in her collection as earth anthems and earth elegies. “At my age,” she says, “times is dwindling, and, as I prepare to leave this beloved earth, I am drawn to celebrate it and express my admiration and anxiety.”
Armstrong’s paintings in Any Given Moment, which explore depth of space, differ from her past work. In a 2010 collection, Armstrong did not limit herself to the single rectangle of a canvas, but painted freely, adding paper to the edges of her painting as it expanded. Her 2010 paintings showed grids spanning empty space. “The work was a visual meditation on the impulses of our human brains to calibrate, measure, and, thus,” Armstrong says, “to declare rights over the earth and its atmosphere.”
As Armstrong approached her latest works, however, she limited her painting area to a single rectangle, impelling her visual imagination to explore space and depth. “Gradually over a year’s time I struggled to make very deep and vast spaces on a small scale.” The painting “Near Here,” with its dark clouds in the foreground and ocean stretching into the distance, best demonstrates her breakthrough.
While Any Given Moment explores Armstrong’s longstanding fascination with water and the meeting points of water and earth, she also acknowledges the effects of social and political changes that influenced her paintings. In works such as “Wave” and “When,” waves are a visual metaphor for geo-political and geo-physical changes.
Since she began teaching in the ‘70s, Armstrong has balanced artistic and academic roles. “I am teaching something that I am passionate about,” she says about her experiences teaching painting at Boston College, “and, at the same time, mystified and curious about. I simply point out possibilities of ways to my students and then retreat to my own studio to find my own way.”
The Victoria Munroe Gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and is located at 161 Newbury Street in Boston. For more information and for holiday hours, visit the gallery’s website.