118 Elliot hosts exhibit by local artist Ralph DeAnna
Ralph DeAnna in his studio.

118 Elliot hosts exhibit by local artist Ralph DeAnna

BRATTLEBORO — 118 Elliot Gallery will present an exhibition of work by Ralph DeAnna, which will be on view from May 5-19. The opening reception is on Friday, May 5, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Gallery hours otherwise are Thursday to Sunday, 2 to 6 p.m. and by appointment.

“Ralph DeAnna, A Reflective Eye” is the first one-man show at 118 Elliot Gallery. “DeAnna is that rare painter,” gallery director and curator, Lisa Mendelsund said, “who is a portraitist and storyteller with an architect's sense of formal perspective.”

DeAnna will exhibit both large-scale oil paintings and small pastels. In his panoramic paintings, which often include portraits of himself, his models, and their surroundings as reflected and refracted in rear-view mirrors and windows, the viewer can see DeAnna's longtime interest in multiple perspectives and the changeable nature of time and memory.

DeAnna, who grew up in Washington D.C., and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, has been a painter for over 40 years and a postal carrier in Brattleboro for 27.

His steadfast commitment to painting and his intimacy with the town and its streets and shops is evident in his paintings, which are broken up into temporal dipytychs or triptychs. These works often feature solitary figures in isolated streetscapes and the nighttime sweep of cars' lights and their motion along roads or over bridges.

DeAnna's paintings start from photographs he takes of models posed around town. With expressions of longing, they look in reflective store windows, or, as with the figure in “The Bridge,” stand along an expanse of roadway framed by the arching skeleton of the green iron bridge, connecting Brattleboro to Hinsdale, N.H.

This painting is divided in two, bisected by a tree, overgrown with ivy. To the left of the tree, the figure is in front of the broad curve of the Connecticut River, as seen from Hinsdale, its surface broken by wavy ribbons of late afternoon light; the dark forms of Brattleboro's buildings are seen in the distance. On the right, the same bridge is viewed head-on, some time later, as cars emerge, with headlights aglow, into twilight.

Influences in his work include Degas, with his devotion to drawings and sculptures of dancers in motion, and particularly, DeAnna's father.

At 17 years-old, Peter DeAnna was the youngest artist hired by the WPA and had to get permission from his mother to travel to North Carolina to paint a mural. He later worked as an illustrator and created realistic dioramas for the Smithsonian Institution.

With their emphasis on the fluidity of time and the power of memory, the writings of Proust, too, have influenced Ralph DeAnna's work. He has exhibited his work at Landmark College, Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, Vermont Artisan Design, the Studio Gallery and Parker Gallery in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

He was a charter member of Windham Art Gallery, an artists' cooperative, and exhibited his work there for 20 years.

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