'Broken' painting exhibit showcases light, color

Sam West

Cartmell’s works include portraits of a wide variety of figures and landscapes from the artist’s home state of Mississippi. As impressionist pieces, these works seek to capture the instantaneity of a moment, the way a single second is perceived by the mind. The paintings in the exhibit focus less on form and shape and more on light and color.

“Something that’s been lost over the years because of photography and TV is natural focus, which is the idea that the eye can only focus on one thing at a time, and everything else becomes blurred,” he said. “The old masters focus on only one thing in a painting. Every painting becomes like a play – there’s a leading man or lady and 
supporting actors and actresses.”

Cartmell’s embrace of impressionism is something that came to him later in life.

“I started out in the Boston School of painting, which is very staid and 
academic,” he said.

In the last 20 years, he transitioned to using impressionist techniques almost exclusively.

Cartmell’s landscapes will seem familiar to people from the Southeast, as they depict the environmental features of this region. He paints the landscapes outdoors, surrounded by nature, rather than working from a photograph. “I go out almost every day, like in the old days, and paint,” Cartmell said.

The title of the exhibit is also a visual technique the artist uses in all the featured works. “Broken Color” refers to blending colors by placing their components near each other. To create the color orange, “you’d get a little yellow and a little red, and put [them] together on the canvas,” Cartmell said. The two colors are then perceived as mixed by the viewer.

Cartmell’s works also use impasto, a process that refers to the heavy application of paint. Sharron Rudowski, education director at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, said this was one of the most striking elements in the exhibit. Rudowski’s favorite part of Cartmell’s work was seeing the “smooth and blended and thick application [of paint] juxtaposed together,” she said.

Rudowski said that Cartmell’s portraits were her favorite pieces in the exhibit, particularly the painting, “Kathy,” a profile of a woman with brown hair pulled into a bun. This piece had an air of mystery around it, as it was the only painting featured in “Broken Color” that was not for sale.

Cierra Smith, a senior majoring in chemistry who works at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, also thought the artist’s impasto brushwork was compelling. “What catches my eye in particular is the texture of the painting, how it pops. It gives the paintings a 3-D feel,” she said.