Cambridge For Locals

Maud Morgan Arts's picture

At the Chandler Gallery, Alexandra Sheldon’s Sketches Capture the City at Street Level

Artist Alexandra Sheldon’s sketches of Cambridge speak to locals. In “Sketches of Cambridge,” her upcoming show at the Chandler Gallery, Sheldon eschews city squares and tourist hot-spots and finds beauty in the paved streets, traffic cones, bare tree limbs, and power lines of residential neighborhoods. Sheldon combines her two passions—painting from life and abstract collage—to create realistic scenes in acrylic, gouache and watercolor that also incorporate collage, line drawings, color swatches and handwritten notes.  Perhaps because of the absence of human figures, these images evoke the kind of peace and solitude only residents know.

 

“I was able to listen to music in my studio and make marks and patterns and collages on the papers,” says Sheldon. “Then work out in the field and paint the cityscapes with a completely different kind of energy.” These dual approaches capture both the visual and the intangible sensations of place. “Garden Street” features parked cars along the street, as trees, sky, and the outlines of houses fade into a yellow wash. A row of small, irregular shapes, like negatives from a stencil, and faint lavender impressions run across the bottom of the scene. These elements add a sense of movement to an otherwise quiet cityscape.

 

This technique is particularly effective in Sheldon’s waterscapes. Multiple views of the water in “Fresh Pond” mimic the experience of walking around the pond. In “Mount Auburn Street,” a painting of autumn trees along the river sits above a pencil sketch of a bridge, and squares of color and intricate line patterns enclose both views. The abstract components express what cannot be captured in a straightforward rendering of the physical space. They invite the viewer into the artist’s process of seeing. “Artists are witnesses,” says Sheldon. “We are watching everything and then making stuff about the watching.”

 

“Sketches of Cambridge” is on display at the Chandler Gallery from July 10 through August 4. The opening reception will be held July 13 from 6-8pm.