July 11, 2013

Couple's art on exhibit in Westport

Couple holds exhibit at Atea Ring Gallery in Westport

By ROBIN CAUDELL Press-Republican

---- — WESTPORT — Artist Elena Borstein revisits architectural geometrics, color and light in “Elena Borstein: Recent Paintings,” an exhibition opening Saturday at the Atea Ring Gallery in Westport.

The gallery also hosts  “Iain Whitecross: Paintings.”

Borstein and Whitecross are married and live in Elizabethtown.


Borstein’s “Reitberg-Two Views” (acrylic on canvas) offers an interior/exterior telescopic perspective of the extension to a 19th century museum in Zurich, Switzerland.

A Connecticut native, she studied at Skidmore College and the University of Pennsylvania. She is professor emerita of York College, City University of New York.

At graduate school in Philadelphia, she drew in the cavernous halls of an old building housing sculpture studios. Louis Kahn’s poetic musing on architecture inspired her.

That and a love of travel focused her eye on ordinary houses, white cubes aglow beneath cerulean skies, gracing Mediterranean hills and coasts.


Six years ago, she lived and painted in buildings designed by Tadao Ando on the island of Naoshima, Japan. She translated his critical-regionalism aesthetic into visual metaphors.

“Rokko” and Green Wall” capture not only the architecture’s concreteness but “salient associations, the sound of rain on the roof, the movement of shadows.”

About Borstein’s Andoan homage in a 2011 retrospective catalogue, author/critic Janet Koplos wrote:

“If one were to attempt an interpretation of this body of work, enclosure and protection are surely among the possible motives. Borstein stands in these places: she experiences them as geometry and color, the useful elements of art. But her interest in light as well as color, in space as well as plane, gives each setting breathing room.

“I’m reminded of Tadao Ando’s early architecture, with its empty, concrete courtyards in which sun and rain and wind mark the presence of nature. Borstein captures the same clarity and heightening of the senses in her paintings.”


“Two Museums” is a fusion of Borstein’s photographs of the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Miho Museum near Kyoto.

In the painting, “a grid superimposed upon a skylight, are both allowing the outside in and bathing the interiors in light,” according to Borstein.

“Like Edward Hopper, I’d rather paint a patch of sunlight on a wall than a human face,” she wrote.


Whitecross continues his painterly dance with the mysterious, strange, of the natural world.

A jaunt last September to Mount Desert Island, Maine, was the muse for many of his new works.

“I found some marvelous rocks and tidal pools there,” Whitecross said. “What was so fine about them is the extraordinary color … very brilliant magentas, reds, oranges and yellows … not what you would expect to find at all in Maine.”

He photographed things growing on rocks and underwater, where tides ebb.

“One morning of shooting, I thought I had enough material to last me the year. It was just as well, I slipped on a rock and dumped my camera. When I got home, I found the shots were OK. The chip was preserved, but the camera was done for. The salt water finished off my camera.”

Born in the U.K., he studied economics in London before pursing painting in Paris. After his first solo exhibition there, he relocated to New York City.

His paintings are held in private collections in Australia, Europe and the United States. He is recipient of fellowships from the Wurlitzer Foundation, the Macdowell Colony and Millay Colony.


Snow is also a tangent in his oil and mixed-media works.

“I didn’t do much snow painting because we didn’t have very much snow. Again, it was very dark. Also, I was continued to work on my shore pieces, my rock pieces, with the material from Maine.”

The loss of his camera led him to sift through older images.

“I came across some of pickerel, a plant that grows in many of the Adirondack ponds. I found them interesting and decided to do some work with them. No water lilies — I felt Monet has done everything that could be done with water lilies.”

Against the water, pickerel’s small lines and geometric silhouette reminded Whitecross of musical notes written on a score.

“I will have one painting in the show of this which may be a new series coming up.”


Though his subject matter remains the same, the way he views it has changed.

“The colors of the rock made me think of the Southwest, Middle East or Afghanistan. In the paper, I read continually about drones and drone warfare. I began to see these landscapes as pictures made by drones.”

He re-imagined his close focus of rock and shore as a drone view of an expansive landscape.

“The painting I used on my card, I called ‘Dronescape,’” Whitecross said.

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IF YOU GO WHAT: "Elena Borstein: Recent Paintings" and "Iain Whitecross: Paintings." WHEN: Opens 5 p.m. Saturday. The show runs through July 27. WHERE: Atea Ring Gallery, 236 Sam Spear Road, Westport. HOURS: Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or by appointment. PHONE: 962-8620.