Art at Kings Oaks: A weeklong pop-up exhibit

By Abraham Murley
“Charlie’s Walk” by Abraham Murley

If you only visit one art show this month, make it Bucks County’s Kings Oaks Farm in Newtown. Painter Alex Cohen and theater artist Clara Weishahn host an annual pop-up art exhibition of 26 local, national and international artists inside a 19th century barn and a stone chapel.  Now in its fifth year, the two-weekend show draws crowds from across the Tri-State area.

The road to Kings Oaks winds past a state park, cow pastures and roadside pumpkin sales.  From the top of a rolling hill, the eye meets a mostly rural horizon. You can park your car just behind the barn on the vast field that Cohen’s grandfather, who bought the farm in the 50s, used as a runway for his plane.

“Art at Kings Oaks” is curated by Cohen and Ithaca-based painter and printmaker Gillian Pederson-Krag. The atmosphere is intimate and non-commercial. The scale and breadth of the exhibit impresses without pizzazz.  Just before the opening, a small John Deere tractor stood in front of the wooden doors of the barn that was lovingly converted into a gallery space.  

A piece by Ying Li
A piece by Ying Li

Inside the barn, viewers are greeted by Abraham Murley’s “Charlie’s Walk,” a large 84×120” work hanging above the hayloft, depicting a lone figure amidst a coniferous forest.  The space, redolent of old wood and smartly lit with spotlights, is partitioned into nooks and crannies, each offering hidden surprises and gems. Paintings, drawings and prints hang between weathered girts and posts on wires suspended off the eaves. The works of Stephanie Pierce deconstruct sunlit interiors into flecks of color.   Neil Riley depicts quiet rural scenes inside his small panels. David Fertig evokes an Enlightened eighteenth-century Europe haunted by Romanticism’s Sturm und Drang. Figurative work predominates at the show, but occasional abstractions, such as the monotypes of Stuart Shils hanging in the stone chapel, offer refreshing counterpoints.   

In the chapel – originally, an 18th century sheep shed – Susan Jane Walp presents Morandi-like still lifes with Etruscan vessels; the etchings of Gillian Pederson-Krag enthrall with meditations on nature, archaeology and ruination; Kathleen Hall’s self-portrait grips with a presence reminiscent of ancient Fayum portraiture.

Many artists caught my attention, but I found myself lingering longest over the irresistibly textured paintings of Ying Li.  Her abrasively scabrous accretions of chunky, congealed reliefs of paint – often squeezed directly from the tube – fabricate double topographies. From afar, you enter Li’s pictorial spaces: the Alps, a Swiss lake, Telluride mountains.  But come close and you fall into the twisting, ridged labyrinths of comingling pigments layered over the surface.

Don’t forget to check out the glass case with Mastro Cencio’s deft archaeological reproductions of Etruscan and Greek ceramics.  The Italian master craftsman lives in Civita Castellana, a small town an hour north of Rome, near the heart of Etruscan Lazio.  Marked by the patina of time, his refined black figure pottery, oil lamps, and bucchero drinking cups are less imitations than channels to a civilization.

Admission is free, works are for sale.  Opening reception 6 – 9pm Friday, October 6. Closing reception 2 – 5pm Sunday, October 15. Open from 10am – 5pm October 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 6 – 9pm October 13 and by appointment.  Kings Oaks Farm, 756 Worthington Mill Road, Newtown, PA 18940.

Exhibiting Artists: Caren Canier, Mariel Capanna, Marybeth Chew, Alex Cohen, Mastro Cencio, David Fertig, Kathleen Hall, Deborah Kahn, Ken Kewley, Ying Li, Stanley Lewis, Ruth Miller, Abraham Murley, Maxwell Mustardo, Margaret Parish, Robert Andrew Parker, Gillian Pederson-Krag, Stephanie Pierce, Langdon Quin, Neil Riley, E.M. Saniga, Sterling Shaw, Stuart Shils, James Stewart, Susan Jane Walp, and Lilly Woodworth


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