The World of Watercolor: How our Exhibitions Interact

Written by Lily Armstrong

As we head into the final month of summer, we at the Copley Society thought now is a great time to take a look at the ways all three of the gallery’s current exhibitions (Small Works: Seaport, Sandy O’Connor: A Tipping Point, An Artists Perspective on Climate Change, and the National Show: Connected Land & Sea) intertwine with one another. In short, each of the beautiful works highlighted share a cosmic bond in the artists’ chosen medium, watercolor. The featured works by artist members; Sandy O’Connor, Ginny Zanger, Mike Eagle, and Liliana Paradiso, each elegantly capture the dynamism of watercolor and why this medium is so timeless.

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Sandy O’Connor’s solo exhibition is a product of the Visual Arts Residency Fellowship she was granted in 2019 in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Urging her audience to examine the impact climate change is currently having on these environments, her series of watercolor paintings calls attention to both the magic and the vulnerability of these landscapes. O’Connor utilizes watercolor in order to present the landscape in a realistic manner; here, the water-soluble pigment wields feelings of nostalgia and presents the coastline as one that we would stumble upon in a dream state. Perhaps this nostalgia is O’Connor’s intention, if not taken seriously, these beloved landscapes are in danger of becoming a place we can only visit in our dreams.

Pictured: Sandy O’Connor, CA, Day After Dorian at Ballston Beach, Truro, MA, transparent watercolor, 24x28”

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Similar to Sandy O’Connor, Copley Artist, Ginny Zanger is known to use the watercolor medium to evoke feelings that are often difficult to put into words. Zanger is also a passionate environmentalist, and throughout her career, she has found ways to depict her love and appreciation for nature in her work by illustrating the spirit of these landscapes in abstract form. Zanger notes that her piece “Dunes of Memory,” which recently won the Gazzola Family Award for exceptional watercolor in this summer’s National Show exhibit, is a juxtaposition of both the haze of one's memory and the haze of the seashore. The abstraction of this piece lies in Zanger’s ability to take a familiar place and execute it in a way that speaks to the fluidity of one’s subjective memory.

Pictured: Ginny Zanger, CA, Dunes of Memory, watercolor, 30x30”

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Watercolor in the National Show continues in Mike Eagle's piece, “The Old Niantic River Bridge,” a masterful depiction of an old steel bridge spanning the Niantic River. What is so miraculous about this piece is Eagle’s ability to carry out the movement and texture of the water and sky through his water-based medium. We see the heaviness of the moisture-filled clouds and can almost visualize that water falling through the sky and into the river below. The pigment allows the light to carry throughout the piece on its own terms, moving lyrically through both the infrastructure, and the aspects of nature we see here.

Pictured: Mike Eagle, The Old Niantic River Bridge, transparent watercolor, 22x28”

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From the Small Works: “SeaPort” exhibition, Liliana Paradiso depicts a vision of early morning in her vibrant watercolor. The unfinished detail on the outskirts of the piece reminds us that nature’s dance from early morning into mid-afternoon is a slow and steady process. The spirited reds, blues, greens, and yellows of the boats assure us that these unseen areas far beyond the dock will be explored as the sun moves higher and higher into the sky.

Pictured: Liliana Paradiso, Waiting, watercolor, 11x14"

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Through its stain, watercolor permits fluidity and transparency. Its delicate wash has the power to replicate places we’ve been, and reimagine the places and feelings we’ve yet to discover. Although they share a similar medium, each of these works tell a different story about nature and our ever evolving relationship with it. We hope you get a chance to come by in the near future and see all of these breathtaking works for yourself!