Exhibition reveals energy in Vietnam landscape

Joan B. Tumpson LAW ’73 paints the forests of Vietnam to depict the hidden scars of war. Her new exhibit, “The Vietnam Series,” is now on display at the York Square Cinema Gallery.

Tumpson, a graduate of Northwestern and Yale universities, abandoned her career as a lawyer in 1991 and devoted her career to art full-time.

“On September 11, 2001, I was in Vietnam,” Tumpson wrote in the exhibit’s program, “trying to understand one epoch of senseless brutality when another burst upon us. In Vietnam, the scars of war are hidden and a green world grows over old wounds. I wanted to make this green mine.”

The exhibition displays 14 paintings. Thirteen of the paintings depict the forests of Vietnam. Each painting represents leaves in different hues and textures. One painting shows leaves that are pale green, almost white; another represents leaves with near-photographic accuracy, with special attention paid to shadows and the way that sunlight reflects off leaves. The paintings are also dotted with red flowers and birds that are barely distinguishable.

Tumpson’s 14th painting depicts an American flag etched with faded names such as Cedar Falls, Junction City and Desert Storm.

The exhibition coincides with her 30th Yale Law School class reunion. On Saturday, about 30 of her former classmates attended a public reception held in the gallery.

“Joan is very successful in practicing art,” said Kathryn Meyer LAW ’73, a friend of the artist who attended the reception. “[It] is inspiring to the rest of us to see that Joan has so many dimensions to her.”

Tumpson said she appreciated the interest of her former classmates.

“I feel quite honored to have [the exhibit] here with people who I went to school with,” said Tumpson. “I like to show them my art.”

At the reception, Tumpson’s paintings were for sale at prices ranging from $350 to $3000. The theater takes a 20-percent commission from the sale of works that are sold while on display in the gallery. The reception was hosted by Johnes Ruta, an independent curator, who selects the artists and coordinates the exhibitions at the York Square Cinema Gallery.

“[Tumpson’s art exposes] biomorphic energy and a theme of regeneration — Vietnam battle zones into natural landscapes — and a concept of healing of cultures,” Ruta said. “I admire her dark tonality and biological energy.”

Ruta said he runs 11 shows a year and chooses artists on three criteria: aesthetic considerations, creativity and innovation. The exhibitions have featured artists from a variety of places including India, Poland, Vermont, New York and Florida.

“I think these exhibits are good for community awareness,” Ruta said. “We get a good crowd of people: a cross section of people of all ages– students, visitors and, of course, friends and family of the artists. We try to promote the idea that art is something for the home, a family value and also a creative value.”

The York Square Cinema Gallery presents new exhibits every five weeks and focuses on the progressive and avant-garde ideas of emerging and established artists from the United States and abroad.

Tumpson’s paintings will be displayed from Oct. 29 to Nov. 22.

Bob Cuneo studies one of the paintings in John B. Tumpson's LAW '73 exhibit,
Carolyn Tan
Bob Cuneo studies one of the paintings in John B. Tumpson's LAW '73 exhibit, "The Vietnam Series" at the York Square Cinema Gallery. The exhibition will continue until Nov. 22.

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