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Art Goes on for Sharon Painter, With New Show in Amsterdam

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Tom Goldenberg found his muse oozing from a smooshed walnut that had fallen to the ground in his Sharon, Conn., yard. The acclaimed artist, who has worked with hand-ground pigments for decades, had been raking buckets of the nuisance nuts from his stand of walnut trees to give to a local farmer for his pigs.

“I noticed one day a brown, gooey pulp oozing out” of one of the crushed walnuts — and the ensuing stain it created, recalled Goldenberg. It was an “aha” moment for the artist, who is known for his landscape and abstract paintings. “So I started raking the walnuts onto a canvas and driving the garden tractor over it.”

The resulting tread marks, in various shades and shapes of permanent brown stain, became the base for a new series of vibrant, large-scale abstract paintings featured in an exhibit that has just opened at Althuis Hofland Fine Arts gallery in Amsterdam, Holland. 

The show, which comprises four paintings and seven works on paper, opened Oct. 16 and runs through Nov. 14. It represents the artist’s first solo exhibition in Europe and is also the first gallery show that Goldenberg will not be attending in person, due to the global pandemic.

Crimped plans

“It is disappointing” not to be able to travel to Europe for the exhibit and reception, to meet in person with the gallery owners and patrons, and to explore Amsterdam and its magnificent museums for the first time, said Goldenberg. 

Instead, in mid-September, the artist wrapped his works and shipped them to the gallery, where he is hoping that a virtual component of the show will emerge from the unusual circumstances caused by the coronavirus. After all, it was technology that connected artist and gallery in the first place. 

“The people who run the gallery saw my work on Instagram,” and also noticed his huge following, “and got to be fans of what I am doing.”

When first contacted by Althuis Hofland earlier this year, Goldenberg — who the late art critic Hilton Kramer in 2001 described as “one of the most accomplished painters on the current scene”— said he was skeptical. “I had no idea who they were. And then I thought, maybe I should call these people back. 

“They were really excited about doing the show. It was hard not to have that kind of reciprocated enthusiasm,” he explained. “They are young and energetic and have terrific sensibilities with what they are showing, cutting-edge kind of works, a lot of vitality.”

The pandemic also put a crimp in the artist’s plans to travel in March to the American Academy, a research and arts institution in Rome, where he had planned to return as an artist in residence for the month “before anybody would know the full-blown implications of the whole COVID thing.” His 2020 visit was canceled.

Still, Goldenberg is excited about the Amsterdam show and his art being exhibited there, which he said is all new with the exception of one or two works on paper from 2019. The largest of the paintings, titled “Calabria,” is a 74-inch by 94-inch latex on canvas. Other large-scale works, also latex on canvas, include  “Ortebello” (60 by 48), “Byzantine Portico (48 by 90), and “Market” (50 by 93).

About his most recent body of work, which clearly reveals his return to abstraction derived from landscape and architectural space, Goldenberg noted: “I initially had worked with landscapes for many years, but my sense about landscape has changed. These paintings are really paintings about the earth and the passage of time and people who have been on Earth for generations.” 

Ethereal but of the earth

Goldenberg has long been inspired by the nature of northwest Connecticut and the Hudson Valley.

In keeping with the earth theme of his paintings, Goldenberg said that in addition to incorporating pulp from walnuts as a medium, he has also started using cast-off latex paint from  the Salisbury-Sharon transfer station. “Oil paint is incredibly stunning, and I will not give it up, but for these paintings it was appropriate to incorporate recycling, things being cast off.”

He describes his new works this way: “I use abstraction to reference an architectural or fictive space. Although a traditional picture-frame is utilized, I envision the work as an inner proscenium that operates on several planes. There are burial chambers and areas of ritual sacrifice, walls and rooms as well as windows and doorways, areas above and below ground, and deep and shallow spaces for the living and the buried.”

The paintings, he said, function as “elegies or heroic, intimate poems intuiting the history of man and ‘The Structures of Everyday Life,’ the title of a book by Fernand Braudel that is rhythmically poetic in his discussion of how humanity is orchestrated by geography, climate, technology and the routines of daily life.”

In 2016 Goldenberg and his wife, Michelle Alfandari, moved to Sharon, where they built a studio on their property after living and working in New York City for four decades. 

“I rely on her judgment when working on a piece,” Goldenberg said of his spouse’s creative input. “It’s a great partnership.”

Further details on the Amsterdam exhibit are available at www.tomgoldenberg.com and the artist’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

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