At The Crary

When artists Sean McConnor, Thomas McNickle, and James Stewart get together for the upcoming show at the Crary Art Gallery, it won’t be the first time they’ve worked together.

Crary Board of Directors Vice President Tom Paquette first ran into the trio at the Hoyt Center for the Arts in New Castle.

The idea of highlighting a group of regional artists appealed to Paquette.

On Tuesday, they brought works to the gallery for the show which opens Saturday, June 21.

An opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. with artists’ talks at 7. The show runs through July 19 and will be closed on July 4.

The colleagues live a short drive from one another and stay in touch with each other and a few other artists.

“There’s a small community of maybe six of us,” Stewart said. “We’re isolated. You really try to stay connected.”

“To have friends such as Tom and James, along with other friends within our group, has been truly enjoyable,” McConnor said. “It certainly makes me feel good to be part of this exhibition.”

Their subject matter varies, with McConnor focusing on still-life, McNickle on landscapes, and Stewart on scenes with people.

“For as long as I can remember, the landscape has been the focus for my thoughts, time and energy,” McNickle said. “I consider it a privilege to deal, on a daily basis, with this subject.”

“Through painting I try not only to experience the moment, but to connect with it in a way that is outside the moment… timeless,” he said.

Many of his works start on site in the open- plein air. He then uses those paintings to produce larger watercolors and oils in the studio.

“As the studio works unfold, they provide an access to my memory of the time and place… not a literal visual memory, but a kind of organic memory, allowing me to re-experience them in totally new ways,” McNickle said. “I want the scene to take precedence over what I do and what I think I know.”

His work has been awarded over 25 medals in national juried exhibitions across the country and has been included in over 100 juried exhibitions. He is presently represented by Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, N.C.; Carolina Galleries, Charleston, S.C. and James Gallery, Pittsburgh.

“Tom is an elected member of the American, the National, the Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Watercolor Societies,” according to his bio.

“There was always drawing and painting going on in my childhood home,” Stewart said. “I occasionally took classes but then as a young adult studied with Al Dunkle at Thiel College and then went to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where I received a traveling scholarship allowing me to study in Europe for a summer.”

“While in Philadelphia I also took classes at the Barnstone and Fredakis academies,” he said. “In 2007 I became a Guggenhiem Fellow and in 2009 received a Ballinglen Traveling Grant to work in Ireland. I have exhibited for many years in Philadelphia at Gross McCleaf Gallery and in New York at Gallery 71.”

He said he does not like to limit himself by explaining his art.

“When going back into the studio it takes reinventing oneself or one’s process to progress even a small amount,” Stewart said. “I try to just keep it interesting in the studio and hope very much that in doing so I will be able to make things that others will relate to and possibly value.”

“The works I contributed to this exhibition are a highlighted selection from the past seven years,” McConnor said. “All of the paintings and drawings were really just an attempt to put my finger on certain tones and moods.”

“Most often it is a search in the dark until I’ve worked a piece enough that it brings forth an image and an emotion that resonate together,” he said.

McConnor is professor of painting at Thiel College and was educated at Kent State University and Edinboro University. “He has exhibited in regional and national juried exhibitions including the Erie Art Museum’s Spring Show and the Butler Museum of American Art’s National Mid Year Exhibition. He is represented by Tregoning and Co. of Cleveland.

The Crary Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and noon to 4 p.m. each Sunday.