There’s nothing quite like the beauty of a Southern night, when the glow of the moon settles over creeks and marshlands, starlight dazzles against the darkness of the ocean and fireflies swirl between the trees. Nightfall at Wells Gallery is a two-week show that captures these mystical scenes through the oil paintings of more than 10 artists including Debra Nadelhoffer, Rick McClure, Junko Ono Rothwell, Sally Tharp and Curt Butler.
While most pieces portray the natural landscape, others explore the bright lights of an eclectic city scene.
Moonlight Emerging, by McClure, depicts a serene night sky cast over lush, green swamplands. The painting was inspired by a trip the artist took with his wife to the
colorful Kiawah Island, where they stayed in a home overlooking the marshes. “I would sit on the veranda each evening and watch the silhouettes of the palmetto trees form against the moonlight sky,” McClure says. “Upon returning to my studio, I began developing color studies trying to capture the challenging values and colors of the night as I remembered them.”
The Lowcountry of South Carolina is a creative muse for Rothwell as well. “It changes color with the time of day, with sunlight and the moon rising. Also, it changes shape by high and low tide,” Rothwell explains. This continuous ebb and flow of nature gives artists the opportunity to slow these moments down—to capture their essence and freeze them in time. In her painting Moon Over Marsh, Rothwell strives to capture the precise moment at which the moon peeks out from behind the clouds.
Sometimes, it’s about waiting for nature to create that perfect, magical scene. In Nadelhoffer’s Moonstruck, the oil painter says she waited until the moon had risen high in the sky, illuminating the edges of the clouds and creating a certain sparkle across the surface of the water. The islands, grasses and distant trees contrast the vibrancy of the moonlit water, further emphasizing its drama, Nadelhoffer explains. “It is pure magic that translates well in a painting,” she says.
Tharp’s thoughtful yet whimsical piece, aptly titled The Great Escape, illustrates an overturned mason jar with lightning bugs zooming out of it. “I see the fact that, as children, we are often drawn to, chase and try to capture fireflies—only to have them die in captivity—as an analogy [for] the things in life that we chase…but aren’t meant to keep,” says Tharp. “I chose to portray them escaping in the night, perhaps living to be caught another day when the time is right.”
Wells Gallery 1 Sanctuary Beach Drive, Kiawah Island, SC 29455 (843) 576-1290 • www.wellsgallery.com
“Each artist brings to life an aspect of the Southern night using their unique styles and palettes.”
– Emily Wagner, director, Wells Gallery
3 Curt Butler, Jewel of the Lowcountry, oil and encaustic on canvas, 60 x 48"
4 Junko Ono Rothwell, Moon Over Marsh, oil on canvas, 20 x 20" 5 Debra Nadelhoffer, Moonstruck, oil on canvas, 12 x 16"