Drew Cottril’s oil paintings open a window to the immense scope of the natural world. Virginia Russell’s ceramics let you hold it in the palm of your hand.
That’s the breadth of the art — and emotion — in Earth Air Fire & Water, the current exhibit at the Averitt Center for the Arts through June 23.
Cottril’s landscapes are often simple rustic scenes: a tobacco barn by an ancient pine, a humble farmhouse peeking over a hillock. The vast storytelling is in his handling of light. The red of the roof of Baka Barn is set aflame by the sun, tempting you to hold up your hand to feel for reflected heat. In Windy Day a crisp blue sky is filled with clouds so dazzling white they seem lit by a floodlight from heaven itself.
Cottril brings us inside scenes as close by as Mr. Neal Dunn’s Barn, Parrish Road and as far-reaching as California’s La Jolla Shores.
He takes us exploring through a range of artistic styles as well. Some pieces have the sharp contrast of line and color of realist Edward Hopper, while others have looser brushstrokes of impressionism and the fascination with light. Still others create a beautiful simplicity with the lushly spare geometry of a Matisse still life, such as Summer Corn. All invite us – in fact they compel us – to look with new eyes at the world around us.
In Virginia Russell’s clay and stoneware, nature is captured in beautiful designs fired into many of the pieces, but also in the very handling of the clay. It’s as if nature is in its bones, filling out the organic silhouettes.
A cheerful azure spiderwort blooms on a matching plate, bowl and tumbler. The blue of a fluttering dragonfly’s wings ripples across a platter. And in two stoneware sets, Russell simply celebrates the raw natural elements. A place setting of soda-fired pieces is a subtle play of color. And her salt-fired of mugs show a gentle texture and a translucent gloss that actually seems to glow.
Russell describes many of her pieces as “functional ceramics”, a way to bring art in to everyday life. She brings a sense of whimsy and humor to it, too.
Her set of three Nesting Bowls with Robins features tiny blue eggs painted in the smallest. The midsize shows three bright yellow diamonds. It’s only when you see the largest bowl that the punchline is delivered. There it’s revealed that the diamonds are actually the chicks’ wide open beaks, waiting for the mama bird to drop in lunch.
As spring warms into summer, beauty greets us each time we step outside our doors. Still, you may be missing views of nature at its most glorious unless you come inside — and see it on display in the Averitt gallery.
Lynn Lilly is a Statesboro resident who appreciates good art.