Georges Seurat paintings remind us of power of color

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, April 10, 2010

“Spring has sprung. The grass has riz…” The computer doesn’t like that word (riz). That’s too bad. I’m quoting from a Burma Shave sign series.

It seems that most of the people in Albert Lea have discovered that “spring has sprung.” Everywhere you go, you see young people, older people, families, moms with kids and dogs walking or dads jogging behind strollers — everyone enjoying the warm weather. Whether it is the temperature, the enthusiasm of our Blue Zone Vitality program, or thankfulness that the long winter is finally over, it matters not. We are outside again!

All of this sunshine and walking (a hundred years ago it would have been called promenading) reminds me of a piece in the collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat, is a delightful, 6-by-10-foot painting, a colorful rendition of very proper ladies under parasols (sunbrellas – the computer doesn’t like that word either) and gentlemen in suits and top hats, frisky dogs, and bouncy children all enjoying the sparkling, sunny day by the shore. The sailboats on the water, the unique speckling of sun and shady areas, and the numbers of people enjoying the afternoon all make you think that, in spite of incredible changes in technology and lifestyles in the past hundred years, people are all the same on the inside, no matter what the era.

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This introductory dialog brings me to the upcoming shows at the Albert Lea Art Center. Spring and nature and art all combine to make it a season that you won’t want to miss.

April 13 to May 29 Susan DeVries and David Lenz will present “Inspired by Nature,” an interesting combination of art pieces that relates to our natural world. Susan enjoys painting animals on rocks which gives her a whole new perspective on design given the fact that the rock shape determines her composition. David enjoys hiking through the woods looking for inspiration for his paintings.

From June 8 to July 2, Linda Draper will share her photography, portraitures, landscapes, fantasy and contemporary works in a variety of media. Art has been a passion for her ever since her first public exposure at age 5 when a butterfly she had drawn was shown on the children’s television program “Kukla, Fran and Ollie.”

Then in July, we will be treated to “Art in Fashion,” a unique and fun way to enjoy both art and fashion. The spring and summer season at the Art Center promises new ideas, enjoyable art, and a delightful change of pace.

Getting back to Georges Seurat, he was only 31 when he died in 1891, yet his paintings are a continual reminder to us of the power of color, even when applied in tiny dots. He was considered a scientist because of his technical approach to the use of color, and was ridiculed by those of his time who thought his work just too far from traditional paintings. In his teen years, he had attended a very rigid, traditional art school in Paris, yet while searching for his own unique style, he chose the investigation of points of color as they affected each other when applied to a canvas.

According to “The Meanings of Modern Art” by John Russell, Seurat was called “one of the great picture-architects of all time.. .believing that places do things to people, and that new kinds of places do new kinds of things to them and that it is the painter’s privilege to sort all this out.” History has proven that Seurat’s pointillism (a term he detested) has made an indelible impression on modem art, yet Robert Wallace quotes in The World of Van Gogh. at the time his works were being shown to his contemporaries, “pregnant women were facetiously warned not to look at his pictures, lest their children be born speckled.”

As the Albert Lea Art Center presents its upcoming shows this spring and summer, you will have the opportunity to view, enjoy, and form your own opinions regarding what you believe is or is not art. I can promise you that a trip to the Art Center will bring a bit of springtime into your life, it will extend your appreciation of local artistic talent, and it will expand your world.

Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center, where the art of Susan Dc Vries and David Lenz will be on display until May 29.