From ‘Alligator’ to encaustic

Tara Bradbury
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Famed author Lisa Moore one of many visual artists taking part in The Leyton Gallery’s summer exhibit

Bonnie Leyton is at a bit of a loss to explain exactly what she looks for when choosing new artists to represent in her downtown St. John’s gallery. As an accomplished visual artist, Leyton says she wants something new and different, but apart from that, it comes down to a simple affinity.

“It’s just the way anyone looks at art,” she explains. “I just fall in love with what they’re doing and I like the way they’re doing it.”

The Leyton Gallery is opening its annual summer show Saturday, displaying new pieces by all the artists it represents, and introducing for the first time the work of Peter Gough, Peter Jackson, John MacCallum and Lisa Moore.

It isn’t the first time Moore — best known as the award-winning and Giller Prize-nominated author of books such as “Alligator” and “February” — has exhibited her artworks, but it’s a first for the gallery, and Leyton is particularly excited.

“I’ve read all her books, but I saw some pieces in ‘Newfoundland Quarterly’ and I thought, ‘Oh my God, these are fabulous,’” she says. “When I saw her work, I just loved the simplicity and beauty, and how you could just fall into it.”

Moore has a number of pieces in the show, including a large landscape, painted outdoors on a windy day, rain splashing on the canvas and paint blowing around, as well as some smaller encaustic pieces on wood. Encaustic works are done entirely in wax.

“My husband gave me the wax and pigments as a Mother’s Day gift, and I mixed them over the stove. I had a frying pan going with little tuna can mixing pots,” Moore explains, adding she then used a heat gun to keep the wax melted and help move it around her wooden canvas.

The largest of Moore’s encaustics, “Iceberg,” was inspired by a piece Moore had seen in an art exhibit out west. The artist had used wax to depict birds, and Moore felt the same smooth, almost iridescent texture used on the birds’ wings would be fitting for an iceberg.

“I love how icebergs often look like light is coming from within them, and the wax can have almost that same quality,” she says.

Brent Coffin of Stephenville has three oil paintings on display, from his “Camouflage” series. Each one depicts a woman — one native, one African-American and one African-American albino — behind a classic Victorian or Colonial textile pattern. Though they’re quite hidden, the figures’ faces are prominent and bold in each piece.

Coffin, who also specializes in Renaissance painting and fabric art, sewing and hand-beading dresses and corsets, says the “Camouflage” pieces are a statement on assimilation and different social issues.

“I wanted to show strength even though there’s a pressure to conform,” he explains. “As society’s standards change, people feel they need to be different to fit these standards. I also thought about what people do to stand out and what they do to fit in, and how they actually want to fit in by standing out.”

Coffin is continuing the theme with his in-progress “Living Gowns” collection, a series of clothing garments taking the form of black swans, peacocks and shells, among other things. An exhibit involving the collection is in the works for the gallery.

Leyton has at least two pieces in the show, both clay sculptures: “Rendez Vous,” an exploration of recognizable private moments, and “The Reader,” a reading man surrounded by his dog and books with recognizable titles.

“My husband’s a writer and Lisa’s a writer and my sister’s a writer, so I named all the books after some of the books they’d written, and that was before I knew I was taking Lisa on,” Leyton says, smiling.

With other works by artists like Jennifer Barrett, Jack Botsford, Mike Connolly, Jonathan Green, Kent Jones, Philippa Jones, Michael Pittman, Toby Rabinowitz, James Rose, Margaret Ryall, Anita Singh, Ginok Song, Louise Sutton and Jillian Waite, the summer show is detailed and interesting — and no small task to hang, thanks to the number of pieces and variety of media and themes.

Unlike other shows, sold pieces won’t remain on display for the duration of the exhibit. Instead, they’ll be replaced with rotating artworks.

The opening reception for the Leyton Gallery’s summer show will happen Saturday from 3-5 p.m. The artworks will be on display at the gallery until July 29, and online at The gallery is located at 6 Clift’s-Baird’s Cove.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Geographic location: Stephenville

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