Anne Farley Gaines and Geoffrey Novelli

“Magia Mani”  Opening  Fri.  Sept 1,  6-9pm

“Magia Mani” means “Magic Hands” in Italian.  Chicago artists, Anne Farley Gaines and Geoffrey Novelli, arrived at this title for their joint exhibit at A.R.C. Gallery.  “When our collaborative clay forms are removed after the kiln has cooled, the results are usually a pleasant surprise – magical, in fact.  A “third artist” seems to emerge whose work is a combination of both of our sensibilities.”

Gaines is a painter who has worked primarily in mixed-media and watercolor and has recently become immersed in ceramics. Her subject matter in “Magia Mani” is mostly nature-based, some combining architectural elements. One work is a double-sided folding screen, depicting the urban landscape surrounding Buckingham Fountain on one side with a montage of her neighborhood, Pilsen, on the verso. Among the media used are acrylic paint and oriental papers. By contrast, “Black River Movement,” a large clay assemblage, reflects her feeling for the natural environment around South Haven, Michigan, which is her home town.

Gaines and her sculptor husband, Novelli, first collaborated on a clay platter he formed at Lillstreet studios in Chicago.  After Gaines painted Phalaenopsis orchids on the platter in high-fire glazes a mutual enthusiasm for working together in clay began. Gaines’ clay plaques in this exhibit are based on floral scenes and some of them on Texas landscape elements like cacti and tumbleweeds, as in the Wichita Falls area where she just spearheaded a community mural project.  She will also show clay plaques interpreting Shakespeare sonnets, thus incorporating her literary interests.  Her watercolors shown are nature scenes that have informed her ceramic works.  Some are reflected in the circular collaborations with Novelli in casted iron from sand molds she carved. Novelli is currently immersed in forming clay ‘baskets’ onto which he incorporates copper handles that he anneals and twists through a complicated process.  Gaines’ input is the abstract glazing in the inner bases.  Neutral tones of fired clay are most predominant on the exteriors of his forms.  As New York native who grew up in El Paso, Texas, Novelli viewed numerous clay pots that his mother collected from archeological excavations in New Mexico.  He also remembers clay works created by his great aunt Hazel, a sculptor in Connecticut.

Gaines and Novelli have both been influenced in some of the works in ‘Magia Mani” by the multifarious architectural designs of Antonio Gaudi, the Spanish architect noted for his otherworldly organic forms.  The couple studied his buildings in Barcelona in October 2016 on a trip that they took to France and Spain, absorbing the ‘magia’ he had to ‘teach’ them.  A portion of his influence is reflected in the works both artists have produced in 2017 but not derivatively. Ever curious, both Gaines and Novelli remain interested in keeping their work ‘fresh,’ and are always looking for the next challenge.

Opening:     Friday Sept 1 from 6-9pm

Exhibition dates:     August 30 – Sept 23, 2017

Gallery hours:     Wed-Sat 12-6pm    Sunday 12-4pm