September 13, 2017

Into The Woods With Edwina Lucas

"Owl" 14 x 11 in, oil on panel, 2017. Gary Mamay. (click for larger version)
She spent childhood summers in the woods around Noyac, building forts and catching frogs with her cousins – "endless afternoons" in the forest, Edwina Lucas recalled. When she was just five years old, her mother taught her the fundamentals of oil painting, and she fell in love with the medium.

That love melded with her pull toward nature. In 2013, she graduated summa cum laude from Skidmore College with a major in studio art and a minor in art history. Her senior thesis, a triptych portraying figures in water, earned honors from the department.

"Studio" in art notwithstanding, upon graduation, she spent an entire year painting outdoors.

"I wanted to challenge myself to go back to the basics, to paint like the masters, and one of their challenges is to paint life," she said Monday. Working "plein air" meant a lot of trial and error, she said. "You have to figure out how to avoid blinding sunlight, and avoid ticks, and crowds and people coming up to you," she reported.

The light – famed for compelling artists to the Hamptons – "is really everything," Lucas said. "It has the ability to change the landscape from morning to night, and I love the long shadows." In her paintings, she strives to capture the beauty of the natural world and the transformative power of light, using it to dapple her forest-scapes and other pastoral paintings.

Having spent childhood summers on the East End, she moved here year-round after graduation. "My goal is to show the beauty of this place off season," Lucas said. As light changes with seasons, a winter painting may focus on the exposed structure of a tree, its branches stripped of lush summer leaves.

Lucas set up shop, so to speak, in places like the Morton Wildlife Preserve and the Clam Island neighborhood in Noyac. She painted behind John Alexander's studio in Amagansett. The world-renowned artist is a mentor and Lucas, 26, has worked as his assistant for the past five years. "He's been an amazing teacher. He's also drawn to the great masters, classical realism, and nature. He pushes me to work on bigger paintings."

The admiration is mutual. Said Alexander, "Edwina Lucas is an exceptionally gifted artist whose paintings are the descendants of 19th-century artists such as William Merritt Chase and Thomas Moran who were drawn to Long Island because of its dramatic landscape and exceptional atmospheric light. Growing up on Long Island, this environment drives Edwina's sensibility much like the sea coast of Maine aroused the spirit of Winslow Homer. Not unlike her forebears, Edwina has captured the grandeur of this magical place."

Speaking of her upcoming show, "The Woods," which opens this Friday, he added, "Edwina Lucas's unique style and original narrative make this exhibition of paintings and drawings, done entirely from direct observation of nature, both beautiful and inspiring."

Sara DeLuca of Ille Arts in Amagansett saw Lucas's paintings and decided to mount a show. Lucas praised the gallery owner as "not afraid to show young artists, to give someone like me a shot."

Lucas worked as an intern at Grenning Gallery in Sag Harbor, later as its manager, and later still as one of its featured artists. A 2016 exhibit showcased "Amagansett Ravens," a 48-inch-by-40-inch oil on canvas depiction of a murder of crows in a cornfield, the black birds contrasting with the gold of barren stalks an eyecatching counterplay calling to mind autumn while foreshadowing the coming of winter. The theme of contrast continued with another from the show. "Spotted Fish" shows a shimmery sole fish against a background of gold, yellow, grey, and silver disks.

Alongside the landscapes, individual items in nature are favored subjects. "Birds and nests and dragonflies; they're all the things that make up this beautiful place," Lucas said.

"The Woods," opening at Ille Arts in Amagansett on Friday, with a reception from 6:30 to 8:30 PM, also features work by Italian sculptor Eva Cocco. She studied architecture in Rome and developed a passion for ceramics early on. Her porcelain sculptures are anthropomorphic and otherworldly at the same time. The beauty they radiate has been described as soulful and thought provoking. Cocco has lived on and off in Sag Harbor and continues to work closely with Celadon Studio in Water Mill.

"The aesthetic philosophy of Wabi-sabi and its concept of accepting beauty within imperfection greatly inspires my work which stands permeated with ephemeral simplicity and irregularity. My latest ceramic artwork is characterized by interpretations of holy idols and folklore testimonials with the intent to enhance the importance of traditions in our present days," she said.

"The Woods" opens Friday and will remain on view at Ille Arts through October 3.

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