Art Watch: When myth is most becoming

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By Lele Galer, Columnist, The Times

March kicks off with first Friday art gallery openings all over Chester County, and my favorite pick is at Mala Galleria in Kennett Square where allegorical painter Rachel Romano has a solo show “True North” throughout March, with an opening artist reception this Friday March 3 from 6-9pm at the gallery at 206 East State Street in Kennett Square.

The opening should be great fun, and Rachel Romano will be unveiling some new paintings as well as drawings for the show.

Detail of ‘Deceit and Desire’ by Rachel Romano.

Rachel describes herself as a “contemporary figurative painter depicting man’s history, memory, myths, and dreams.” Her most often painted character is a lithe female, which is her muse, whom she includes in various stories that unfold gently on the canvas. Often the loveliness of the female, animals and colors, is in sharp contrast to rather nasty imagery of thorns or blood. Her paintings are mesmerizing, whimsical, haunting…and people cannot get enough of them. For the past 2 and a half years she has been working out of the Coleman Artist Studio in Phoenixville, a building which has many artist studio spaces and which will be on the Chester County Studio Tour this May.

Rachel Romano works out of her studio in Phoenixville, and has been busy non-stop. With every passing day, her work is becoming more and more sought after, so now is a great time to buy her work if you intend to collect it. As the one of the featured artist’s for the famous Malvern Retreat House Art Show this past Winter, she has major shows for the rest of the year, including March at Mala Galleria in Kennett Square, April at Jed Williams Gallery in Philadelphia, The Chester County Studio Tour in May and then a fully awarded and paid for artist’s retreat to a chateaux in France for the Summer. Rachel’s fairy-tale-like imagery of long-necked bare-breasted women, harlequin males, birds and forest creatures, bring to mind Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and early 20th century illustration.

Rachel grew up drawing and painting, and went to school for advertising. While working and raising a child, she painted on and off for 35 years, and then started taking studio workshops to return to painting professionally. While attending an art workshop a few years ago, she had a moment of clarity that has kept her on course for the past three years. She had always thought she would someday be a children’s book illustrator, but suddenly she realized “I wasn’t a storyteller for children; I was a storyteller for adults.” Once she realized that her allegorical images and painted stories could flow freely from her adult imagination, for adults, the paintings took on a new life. She put fear aside, “not a fear of painting, but a fear of discovering who I am” Rachel explains, “The whole world blew apart for me – what I should and shouldn’t do – and getting back to the child in me.”

Her customers frequently ask her to explain her stories and decode the selected imagery that peppers the canvas. Rachel says, “Everything has a meaning, and I can tell the meanings, but I would rather them think on what it means to them… I give the language and the viewers give the narrative.” Rather like some Grimm’s fairy tales, her paintings offer an alluring, lyrical group of images that draw you in to a world of myth, but there is often a nastier element lurking or entwining the main figure. She favors long necked females, long necks giving them an extra air of grace, and there are often thorns… thorns like the nasty component of the beauty of a rose? Where there is beauty there is cruelty? The mind wanders through a world of poetic metaphor and archetypal signs to grasp the story, and while it wanders, it enjoys a beautiful journey in every Rachel Romano canvas.

Check out Mala Galleria and Rachel Romano paintings and drawings while you still can afford them.

Buttonwood by Terry Anderson.

Also this week First Friday openings, check out The Station Gallery in Greenville where artist Terry Anderson exhibits her beautiful series of paintings inspired by the natural world. The artist reception is from 5-8pm this Friday, March 3rd at 3922 Kennett Pike in Greenville Delaware. Also in Delaware, Blue Streak Gallery, at 1721 Delaware Avenue in Wilmington, welcomes artist Gina Bosworth for her one-woman show “Bits and Pieces” through April 1. Gina’s artist reception is from 5-8pm this Friday, and offers a lovely selection of the artist’s mixed media collages and paintings.

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