Mystic Museum of Art exhibit highlights life’s simplicities

Roger Beers’ “Multitude III,” oil on canvas (Courtesy of Mystic Museum of Art)
Roger Beers’ “Multitude III,” oil on canvas (Courtesy of Mystic Museum of Art)

Step into the Mystic Museum of Art’s Liebig Gallery and you’ll see minimalistic paintings of modern life: a woman sits in the solitude of her living room while browsing the internet over her laptop; hundreds navigate through mile-long airport security lines, suitcases in tow; two friends, brought to life by bright watercolors, climb an apartment stairwell in New York City; couples sitting in a French-style cafe linger over coffee in another. These are moments we often don’t give much of a second thought to, though they are also the moments that can give added meaning to our day-to-day lives.

At least that is what “The Contemporary Scene,” Mystic Museum of Art’s newest exhibition, on view through June 2, is seeking to convey.

“This is about finding the beauty in everyday moments,” says show organizer and former curatorial assistant Erika Neenan, who recently accepted an assistant directorial position at Norwich’s Slater Museum. “When you go on vacation, you often think of and remember the big events as the beautiful moments in your life, but this art is saying that the small events and the mundane events are also beautiful.”

The 33-piece show, which opened April 20, features the work of three local artists — Rachel Petruccillo, Sarah Stifler Lucas and Roger Beers, all of whom paint straightforward, representational scenes of ordinary life. Look beyond their familiar depictions, though, and you'll find deeper nuances.

Originally fascinated with Petruccillo’s watercolored paintings of intimate moments in crowded places, Neenan wondered if she could expand on such a theme to create an entire exhibition. Having seen and remembered Beers and Stifler Lucas’ similarly styled work, she proposed the idea of an exhibition to the three artists, all of whom gladly accepted.

“These are scenes that everyone can identify with,” Neenan says. “But what I found interesting is that (these artists) were taking everyday moments and presenting them through art, elevating those experiences to the viewer.”

In Beers’ work, urban scenes of faceless, geometric figures walking through crowded train stations and airports offer a more mechanical representation of modern life, perhaps questioning why we rush through our day-to-day schedules.

Stifler Lucas’ depictions of Edward Hopper-like bars and cafes beckon viewers to imagine themselves on the painting. The scenes look eerily familiar, and with titles like “Dogwatch Café” and “Noon at Noah’s,” that familiarity is quickly explained.

In Petruccillo’s work, hyper-realistic watercolor paintings depict tourists and locals weaving through cities and small Italian towns. She captures the modern era while luxuriating in the magic of exploring the unknown — an aesthetic not so different from scenes seen in Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” or Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name.” In the seminal work that inspired the show, two women contemplate directions while holding an iPad; a Hong Kong skyline looms overhead in the background. Both look confused as well as exhilarated, emotions that seem remarkably relatable.

“It’s an everyday moment perfectly captured,” Neenan says. "... It's moments like these that make this show come together."

m.biekert@theday.com

Rachel Petruccillo’s “Tourists, Avenue of Stars, Victoria Habour, Hong Kong,” watercolor on paper (Courtesy of Mystic Museum of Art)
Rachel Petruccillo’s “Tourists, Avenue of Stars, Victoria Habour, Hong Kong,” watercolor on paper (Courtesy of Mystic Museum of Art)
Roger Beers’ “Hanging On,” oil on canvas (Courtesy of Mystic Museum of Art)
Roger Beers’ “Hanging On,” oil on canvas (Courtesy of Mystic Museum of Art)
Sarah Stifler Lucas’ “Saturday at Max’s,” oil on canvas (Courtesy of Mystic Museum of Art)
Sarah Stifler Lucas’ “Saturday at Max’s,” oil on canvas (Courtesy of Mystic Museum of Art)

If you go

What: “The Contemporary Scene”

Where: Mystic Museum of Art, 9 Water St., Mystic

When: Through June 2: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except closed Mondays

Admission: Free

Contact: (860) 536-7601, www.mysticmuseumofart.org

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