Off the beaten exhibition path

As the sunlight hours grow shorter and the weather colder, local art venues are celebrating the changing of seasons — from summer to fall — in their exhibition spaces.

Hayne Bayless and Liz Pagano
River Street Gallery
Hayne Bayless and Liz Pagano
Joan Fitzsimmons
River Street Gallery
Joan Fitzsimmons
The River Street Gallery is currently exhibiting works by photographer Joan Fitzsimmons, oil painter Chris Engstrom, and lamp makers Hayne Bayless and Liz Pagano.
River Street Gallery
The River Street Gallery is currently exhibiting works by photographer Joan Fitzsimmons, oil painter Chris Engstrom, and lamp makers Hayne Bayless and Liz Pagano.

The River Street Gallery, located on 72 Blatchley Ave. near Quinnipiac Park in Fair Haven, openedits autumn show of local work by four New Haven artists this past weekend. The gallery is in the back room of a furniture shop — Fairhaven Furniture — that occupies a brick warehouse building that blends into a landscape of similar warehouses and smokestacks in a non-residential neighborhood of New Haven.

“We wanted to show work in the context of a home [with furniture],” said Kate Paranteau, who has been running the River Street Gallery for seven years. “It’s for people who appreciate art, but might be too intimidated to go to an actual art gallery.”

The exhibition room is designed like a large studio apartment, filled with beds, coffee tables and couches from the furniture store. Artwork — paintings, photographs, and highly designed lamps — is shown interspersed among the furnishings. This weekend, the room debuted the work of photographer Joan Fitzsimmons, oil painter Chris Engstrom, and lamp makers Hayne Bayless and Liz Pagano.

Their pieces are displayed in a domestic manner — a lamp on a nightstand, a framed photograph behind a headboard. The work of Bayless and Pagano, a series of lamps entitled “Sideways and Askew,” creates an atmosphere of an ethereal forest. The lamps are made of translucent paper — some in strips, some colored, all shaped by thin wires — and are grounded by large concrete or stone bases. They range in size from eight inches tall to heights measuring almost six feet, such as the aptly named Really Tall Lamp. Some lamps are strictly geometric — one is a long, rectangular prism bent at an obtuse angle, titled “Left Angle” — while others have more organic forms such as a spiral shell-shaped lamp named Nautilus. Bayless carves or shapes the base and Pagano, a printmaker, creates the detailing on the paper that transforms the quality and color of each lamp’s light. One of their pieces, “Earth and Sky,” is especially notable for its high level of detailing. It is a rectangular column of glowing paper, mounted on a hefty base of stone that Bayless shaped. The bottom third of the lamp is light green, marked by horizontal striations. Pagano used a feather dipped in Indian ink to create the thin lines. The top section is off-white, with cloud-like patterns created by dripping wax onto the paper.

Fitzsimmons’s photography has a direct relationship with “Sideways and Askew,” playing off the same theme. Her series of photographs, titled “Trees,” shows black and white close-ups of their title objects. She captures portraits of each tree, giving each tree a unique sense of identity.

“I wanted pieces that would talk to each other,” said Paranteau, who said she chose to exhibit this work with the lamps because it is soft and quiet, a two-dimensional counterpart to the illuminated sculptures.

But she said she also looked for contrast so as to establish a set of works that would ground the exhibition and keep viewers from feeling too sleepy. Engstrom, a graduate of the Yale School of Art and a faculty member at New Haven’s Creative Arts Workshop, depicts urban and industrial New Haven in his work, roughly painted works composed of quick, energetic brush strokes. Images of train tracks, smokestacks and bridges, the paintings are reminders of the world outside the River Street Gallery as they hang behind the luminaria and next to the forest scenes.

The exhibition will be at the gallery until Jan. 1, 2011. It is open to visitors on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and throughout the weekend.

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