Parts and the Whole: Works by Richard Neal
By: Elise Hugus, September 28, 2011
Daniel Cojanu - Centerville artist Richard Neal at a reception for his 2011 exhibit, 'Parts and the Whole' at Highfield Hall.
If you haven’t yet been in to Highfield Hall in Falmouth, now is the time to do it.
The renovated Victorian-era mansion, which now serves as a community art center and function hall, hosts the work of Centerville artist Richard Neal through Sunday.
Those familiar with Neal’s mixed media, collage-like paintings might raise an eyebrow at those words. But what may seem like a clashing contrast actually works well in Highfield’s fine art gallery atmosphere. Perhaps there is room for contemporary art in a treasured historical space; just maybe, it’s a sign that the meaning of “Cape Cod art” is being redefined.
“I think people would like to see something more than what you might usually see in a Cape Cod gallery. That’s not to say I don’t care for landscape painting. People are interested in seeing those barriers broken down,” said Neal after a reception for his show on Friday.
Highfield deputy director Janet Totten agreed, noting “we all want to see something new.” In that vein, Highfield hosted a retrospective of the works of the late Sam Feinstein last year, and will showcase the work of his protégée, Louise Lane, starting on October 4.
Incorporating pieces of jeans, wires, and Barbies into his highly textured paintings, Neal says he is open to the randomness of inspiration, but remains true to a plan he conceives before the brush or palette knife hits the canvas.
One piece, on first glance, is a close-up portrait of an anguished-looking man. On closer look, his face looks like it’s full of stitches, which are actually pieces of toy train track. And wait a second, is that a shoe coming out of his temple?
“I think of materials pretty much like what color I use. I try to think of it as a big wash of paint,” Neal says.
“At first, people do not see [the shoes]. If you get the shapes and color you will just see an image. I like seeing that disorientation, then the recognition on people’s faces. That’s the best part, really.”
Tools of the trade
The artist’s intent might be easier to recognize in other pieces. Neal’s self-portrait, Turn Me On, depicts the artist with a computer motherboard for a brain and a wire coiling out of his mouth. Many viewers can likely relate to this painting, as we find ourselves becoming extensions of the technology that we purport to control.
Using technology is “something I found I need to do more and more, having a website, keeping socially connected. They all require computer time, when something I’d prefer to be doing is smashing a piece of glass,” Neal says.
Neal also uses more traditional materials—wood and glass—to create a three-dimensional aspect to his work. But don’t be surprised if you see that he’s painted broad brush strokes over the glass or used the wood to obscure parts of the piece.
Making a living primarily as a carpenter, Neal is finding that being an artist on Cape Cod has its challenges. While the Cape’s inspiring colors and the slower pace make it a good environment to work in, Neal’s audience might be in the city.
“I like creating art here, but it’s challenging to make a career of it. People are intrigued, but it’s probably more urban work,” he says.
If you go…
Parts and the Whole by Richard Neal
Showing at Highfield Hall, 56 Highfield Drive, Falmouth through Sunday, October 2
Open Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 4 PM and Sunday from 10 AM to 1 PM.
Neal’s paintings are also on display at the Provincetown Art Association Museum through November 6 and at the Cape Cod Chat House in Dennis.