Through November 8, Martha Richardson Fine Art on Newbury Street displays a poignant, intimate exhibit of works by 11 artists from Gateway Arts in Brookline. Gateway, which works with Vinfen, represents and fosters the careers of artists with disabilities. “It’s such an important organization,” says Richardson. “It saves these artists lives in many ways.”
The works highlighted in “Gateway Invasion” represent an extremely sophisticated group of creators. Of the 29 works exhibited, seven have sold within two weeks of the show opening. All proceeds from the exhibition benefit the arts center and the artists. The show was extended an additional two weeks due to its popularity.
“Gateway Invasions” strips the stigma off of these artists. Their disabilities aren’t labeled anywhere at the show or in its literature. They don’t believe that information is relevant. Stephen DeFronzo, artistic director at Gateway, says, “A lot of people think they’re outsider artists because they have disabilities. But really they’re contemporary artists who can make as valuable contributions as anyone else.” In fact, all of the contributions to the show go above and beyond what just anyone could create.
Maria Schlomann crafts deeply self-reflective drawings in pencil on watercolor paper. In “Untitled,” a small, childlike female figure sits on a sofa amidst scattered toys and artifacts. She sits quietly, patiently, her legs dangling above the ground, her hands gently clasped in her hands. She stares straight ahead. From the right-hand side of the frame a large, bright red hand reaches out towards her. She seems to know it’s there but waits for it to take her.
Though this nightmarish hand threatening the girl is an explicit representation of mental illness, it also speaks to the fears that make us human. Beyond the complex psychological analysis, Scholmann also serves up impeccable technique, with shadow and detail rendered with master precision.
John Colby’s style is quite the opposite. Using pencil on rag paper he creates frenetic, abstract pieces in black and white. Each piece radiates a wild, but intentional energy. His work recalls both the vigor of Van Gogh’s brushstrokes and the dark undertones of Caspar David Friedrich’s stormy landscapes.
For those drawn to color, Gabrielle Sichel paints vibrant portraits with fabric dye on paper. Often female nudes, the portraits use color and shape to explore female identity.
The Gateway Arts store, gallery and studios are housed at 60-62 Harvard Street in Brookline, where art lovers can view and purchase work by these artists year round. DeFronzo explains that their disabilities don’t make the artists any different from other makers. He laughs, “Sometimes the biggest misconception is what all contemporary artists face when someone looks at the work and says, ‘my kid could do that.’”