August 23, 2012

Abstraction cubed

By ROBIN CAUDELL, Press-Republican

---- — WESTPORT — A triad of abstraction closes the summer season at the Atea Ring Gallery in Westport.

New work by Frank Owen, paintings by Rebecca Purdum and charcoal drawings and mixed-media sculpture by Charles Ramsburg will be on exhibit through Sept. 8.


Purdum’s six oil paintings date from 2004 to the present.

“It’s the kind of painting that comes out of the process of painting itself,” said Purdum, who lives in Ripton, Vt. “They are not about any specific idea.

“A friend of mine once told me he could hear my paintings before he actually saw them. They seem to evoke sound to him rather than a visual experience. Obviously, there is a visual experience, and many people see many different things in them.”

This grouping is about the light outside and time.

“The element of time is most important in these works,” Purdum said. “They’re layered, and it took a while to paint them. They take time to look at, too. It’s not an immediate experience. It’s something that grows on you the longer you spend time with them.”

She titles her works after the fact. Some titles are phrases overheard. Some titles are reminders when she painted them.

“‘Dreamless,’ it’s a black painting and does have a kind of nocturnal quality to it. Just opposite it is the largest painting, ‘Same Sun.’ That painting works as a nice contrast to ‘Dreamless,’ and it probably evokes the most daylight and the way light is when you’re outside under the sky.”

When Ring and Purdum hung the show, it was quiet with the exception of crickets.

“That beautiful droning of the crickets and the way the paintings embody that sound and the way the sound influences the way you look at the painting was a really beautiful experience. It’s a wonderful place to go look at art. You go to the Atea Ring Gallery, it’s quite a contemplative experience, and the setting is conducive to a really powerful art experience.”


Owen retired from his teaching post at the University of Vermont last May.

“I loved my teaching job,” said the Keene Valley resident. “Can you think of anything more fun? It was great work. I taught a total of 32 years, 20 years at UVM. I miss the social interplay and the bright, young kids and youthful ambition and all that good stuff.”

In late 2010, he had a show at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York City.

“She’s my New York dealer. I’ve been with her 30 years. Time goes on.”

Owen has several small-framed works and modest stretched paintings on canvas in Ring’s living room.

He worked on a big monster painting all year long and shifted to a smaller, new body of work.

“I started eight of them at once,” he said. “I had to triage as I got closer to my deadline. It was like playing chess with six or eight opponents.”

His works are primarily acrylic on canvas or a plastic substrate. Occasionally, collage elements bob in his paint information.

“I’m up to my old tricks and learned a few new ones. I make paint-film membranes. I collage them in and stack them up.”

As always, Owen works front to back.

“I’m just wired oddly. You do something like that for so long, you begin to think that way. Printmakers and typesetters do that.”


Owen’s abstract ruminations harmonize with Purdum and Ramsburg’s works.

“Purdum’s pieces are quite beautiful in a very quiet, meditative, pondering way,” Owen said. “They’re delicate and tough at the same time.

“Charlie Ramsburg, he’s a robust, very funny guy. These sticks of his are so magical. The only way to see them is three, four or five of them on a wall.

“They feel like you can grab one off the wall and go out and bewitch people.”

Email Robin Caudell:

IF YOU GO ▶WHAT: An exhibition of abstract works by Frank Owen, Rebecca Purdum and Charles Ramsburg ▶WHEN: Through Sept. 8 ▶WHERE: Atea Ring Gallery, 236 Sam Spear Rd. Westport ▶HOURS: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Other times by appointment. ▶PHONE: 962-8620 ▶EMAIL: atearing@

Email Robin