Reviews on Tom Edwards
The Washington Post
In the galleries: Scenes of nature with allusions to religious art
January 2, 2014 at 11:07AM
by Mark Jenkins
Tom Edwards's "Seven Angels Arrive to Witness the Fall of the Last Leaf," on view at Jane Haslem Gallery. (Courtesy Tom Edwards/Jane Haslem Gallery)
The quick way to explain "Seven Angels Arrive to Witness the Fall of the Last Leaf" at the Jane Haslem Gallery is that artist Tom Edwards found some discarded doors and decided to draw on them. As the title suggests, however, it's not that simple. The exhibition's centerpiece is two linked sets of 6 1/2 -foot-high doors embellished with woodland scenes. Edwards compares the work to Renaissance altar pieces that were opened or closed to show alternate paintings for different occasions.
Edwards lives near a Connecticut nature preserve and depicts New England forests realistically, if in unorthodox media. He draws with ballpoint pen and colored pencil, sometimes layered atop or beneath other substances. "Under Tide" is an exceptionally detailed picture of objects, natural and man-made, that drifted onto a seashore. The scene's liquid quality is accented by washes of tea and coffee.
The show's title piece also was drawn with pen and pencil, but in wet gesso, a chalky white substance used as a base for paint. On the outer set of doors, the seven winged witnesses are moths and butterflies drawn in color amid monochromatic woods. They hover around the season's last leaf, whose drop represents the death of Edwards's father. The inner picture is a winter scene, more harshly rendered, yet with a lone green leaf to represent spring's imminent renewal.
Clearly more than an offhand sketch, the four-door piece alludes to religious art, yet contemplates the mystery of death in secular terms. The butterfly wings were inspired by one of Fra Angelico's Christian paintings, Edwards notes, but "Seven Angels" suggests not the gospels, but Thoreau. "In wildness is the preservation of the world," he wrote — although probably not with a ballpoint pen.
Tom Edwards: Seven Angels Arrive to Witness the Fall of the Last Leaf
On view through Jan. 31 at Jane Haslem Gallery, 2025 Hillyer Pl. NW. 202-232-4644. www.janehaslemgallery.com