Color, form and tone: Dual exhibit at Gallery A3 offers contrasting styles

  • “It is the Promise,” mixed media on canvas. Image courtesy Rochelle Shicoff

  • “Fills the Earth,” mixed media on canvas. Image courtesy Rochelle Shicoff

  • “Bring the Light,” mixed media on canvas. Image courtesy Rochelle Shicoff

  • “Not Surprised,” mixed media on canvas. Image courtesy Rochelle Shicoff

  • “Untold Story #13,” mixed-media painting with oil pastel, graphite, colored pencil, and acrylics. Image courtesy Ron Maggio

  • “Untold Story #9,” mixed-media painting with oil pastel, graphite, colored pencil, and acrylics. Image courtesy Ron Maggio

  • “Untold Story #2” mixed-media painting with oil pastel, graphite, colored pencil, and acrylics. Image courtesy Ron Maggio

Staff Writer
Published: 9/4/2019 4:43:51 PM
Modified: 9/4/2019 4:43:28 PM

It’s a study in contrast — from color to imagery to form.

But a new exhibit at Gallery A3 in Amherst, featuring the work of painters Rochelle Shicoff and Ron Maggio, also offers some connecting themes: that of telling stories visually, and in particular transposing different mediums to paint.

“Stories and Voices: All of What is Possible,” which opens Sept. 5 and runs through Sept. 28, finds both artists producing new series of themed work. Shicoff’s “Voices From Far Lands” offers a colorful mix of paint and collage that weaves together images of birds, goats, flora and human faces in a way that conjures fables, with a nod to sensuality and imagination.

Maggio’s “Stories,” meantime, is made up of mixed-media paintings, in more subdued hues, that represent the artist’s visual translation of people’s stories; these works are in turn shaped by a previous series Maggio designed that was inspired by Italian arias of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Where Shicoff’s work is flowing and expansive, with interwoven and free-floating images in rich colors, Maggio’s paintings — they incorporate oil pastel, graphite, colored pencil, and acrylics — showcase a more limited palette, with a particular emphasis on gray, and straight lines, underlying graphics and geometric blocks.

Maggio, a recently retired art professor from Springfield College, said he’s often worked at a large scale, with canvasses as big as eight by five feet. But for this exhibit, each of his 16 paintings measures 12 by 12 inches — the better, he says, for visitors to get up close to the artworks “and be drawn in. I’d like them to decide for themselves what they see.”

Shicoff and Maggio’s dual exhibit also represents something of the old and new at Galley A3. Shicoff, who’s had a long artistic presence in the Valley — she was one of the five original contributors to the noted mural in downtown Northampton, “The History of Women in Northampton from 1600-1980” — is one of the longer-term members of the Gallery A3 collective. Maggio, by comparison, was just invited to join the group last year.

Shicoff was part of the A3 membership that voted to have Maggio join the collective; last fall, she visited him in his Springfield studio to see more of his paintings. “His work is very elegant,” she said. “I thought it would work with mine, that it would offer an interesting contrast.”

“It’s an honor to share a show with [Shicoff],” Maggio added (it’s his first at Gallery A3). “She’s had her work exhibited all over.”

Shicoff, who splits her time between her home in Monson and an apartment in Brooklyn, New York, said her previous painting series, which depicted Palestinian women confronting Israeli soldiers, was a challenging and emotional line of work; she is Jewish but has a number of Muslim-American neighbors in Brooklyn whom she interviewed as part of her research for painting.

The struggle of the Palestinians for basic rights within Israel, she said, “is a difficult topic. I was very moved by the situation, but when it came time to do a new series [of paintings], I was looking for something different, that was more a work of the imagination.”

In “Voices From Far Lands,” she drew on childhood experiences of drawing animals, an artist residency in North Carolina where she painted a series of red-winged blackbirds, and an imaginary world where flora, fauna and humans take on different roles. “I felt like I was cut loose to a place with no guns, a colorful place where I could let my imagination run free,” she said.

As Shicoff writes in a statement about the new series, “This work is driven by a deep and long standing affection for nature, and I have used birds and foliage throughout each painting. The small floating collage shapes can be seen as thoughts that come unexpectedly into one’s mind, which often happens in my case.”

Maggio, who has exhibited his work in a variety of places over the years, including a number of galleries and museums in Ohio and Indiana (where he once taught), says his new group of paintings reflects the work he did previously on his “Aria” series, in which he sought to find a visual way to present the music he had listened to.

“I was thinking of how I would translate Italian lyric opera in abstract terms, and I decided to look at it the same way you’d consider music,” he said. “You have tone, you have color, you have specific lyric lines, you have repetition … so [in my paintings] I had thin lines for the sopranos, thicker lines for the baritones, for example.”

His layered paintings also have a sort of calligraphic undercoating: swirling, graffiti-like patterns that at first glance can appear to be writing — perhaps Arabic — but in fact are not any recognizable language.

He likes the idea of visitors puzzling over what the lines, shapes and textures of his new paintings might mean: “I want people to form their own ideas and impressions.” And in a statement, he says that as an abstract artist, “I have always enjoyed the challenge of problem-solving, utilizing the formal elements of design and principles of organization and visualizing them through abstract sensibilities.”

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at

There will be an artists’ reception for Shicoff and Maggio at the gallery on Thursday, Sept. 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. as part of Amherst Arts Night Plus. The artists are also inviting local writers and poets to read and discuss their work on Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the gallery, as part of a program supported by the Amherst Cultural Council and the Mass Cultural Council.

In addition, Maggio will be at Gallery A3 on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 1-4 p.m. to discuss his work with anyone who cannot attend the artists’ reception on Sept. 5.

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