Joshua Ferry     Friendship. 2009 Acrylic and Wax on Canvas. 14 X 18 inches.

"An inquiry into color can take you just about anywhere".  So says David Batchelor in his book Chromophobia, his main premise being resistance to the argument that there exists in Western culture and intellectualism a fear of color relegating hue to the realm of the superficial, the supplementary, the inessential, and the cosmetic.   

I am not afraid. As an artist whose work exists primarily within the black and white extremes of the spectrum (...black being the achromatic color value of minimum lightness or maximum darkness, one extreme of the neutral gray series, the opposite being white...), that may sound a bit unconvincing.  But remember the lessons from Color Theory 101: primary colors are necessary to create those neutrals.  It's what makes the color wheel go round...

Penelope Jones      Orange Gate   5x4.5 inches, Casein

Penelope Jones and Joshua Ferry create paintings with an emphasis on color, structure and materials, their highly worked surfaces imbuing a sense of both strength and immense sensitivity.  They make works of passion, and purpose. They are not afraid. 


I saw Joshua Ferry's paintings at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art biennial exhibition in 2008.  His dynamic use of simple imagery and color are understated, clear and powerful. Ferry creates his paintings with a focus on physical process and materials, sometimes laced with political reference, which leads him into his work.

Joshua Ferry      I Will Follow. 2007 Acrylic on Canvas. 44 X 26 inches.

"This painting started as a list of words such as; walk, skip, jump, trip, stumble, etc... Words relating to basic body movements. Then I started erasing the words with blocks of color- ultimately becoming interested in the stack of colors. Seeming too rigid, I painted over a few of them free-hand."

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1971, and growing up in New Hampshire and Maine, Ferry is the youngest of four brothers.  He has lived in New Jersey for over 12 years with his wife, Karen, and still returns to Maine during the summers. He holds an MFA from Rutgers University's Mason Gross School of the Arts and a BFA from the Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine where he studied with James Cambronne and Johnnie Winona Ross.  He has been a resident at the Vermont Studio Center and the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida, and has worked as a studio assistant to both Donald Sultan and Bruce Robbins in New York.

Joshua Ferry  Casket. 2004 Oil, Acrylic, Alkyd Resin and Wax on Canvas. 50 X 42 inches.

Ferry received an Honorable Mention for his work in the Center for Maine Contemporary Art’s 2008 Biennial and has also been exhibited at Coleman Burke Gallery, NYC , the Mercer Gallery in New York, the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania, and in the Portland Museum of Art 2005 Biennial.

 Joshua Ferry    Pros and Cons, 2007 is 16 X 20 inches.   
"This painting started as a grey grid.  Then, I painted color crosses into each square.  I was thinking about alter cloths, quilts, and religious banners.  Later, I thought of the crosses as plus signs and responded by painting minus signs over them."

In his own words:

"My paintings are constructed with many layers of applied and sanded paint. Making use of words, maps, flags, and found Internet photos, the imagery is relatively simple, graphically bold, and sometimes political. In addition, my paintings are about paint and exploring the line between abstraction and representation. My best paintings force me to embark on an investigative journey rather than simply depict an idea. Ultimately, I like to be surprised by my work.
Joshua Ferry Delegates 2005, Oil, Acrylic, Alkyd Resin and Wax on Canvas, 60 X 36 inches.

"In 2005, I decided to make a painting of the Maine state flag after seeing an exhibit at the Maine State Museum that showcased old Maine flags from past wars. I was imagining what it would be like if my home state of Maine was a modern day war zone like Iraq or Afghanistan. When I finished the flag image, I decided to list the names of Maine artists that had influenced me during my formative years- A way to pay homage to my art upbringing in Maine. The numbers signify important dates in my life; 71 birth, 87 moved to Maine from New Hampshire, 97 left Maine for New Jersey, 05 is the date of the painting.
  Joshua Ferry         Cross. 2007 Acrylic on Canvas. 14 X 18 inches

"Most recently, I've been working on paintings that are composed of a grid of squares with crosses in them.  Many layers and much sanding.

Joshua Ferry  Basilica Study Orange 1  2010

"The first seed of this format was Pros and Cons from 2007.  In the most recent paintings, the crosses are all the same color."


I met Penelope Jones in the 90's at Maine College of Art and we have been good friends for a long time.  Her pure abstraction pat­terns emerge from the cre­ative use of wide-ranging mate­ri­als includ­ing casein, resin, clay, silk rib­bon and printed paper. Jones' work, combining formalist interest in light, color, and surface with an attention to the evocative qualities of paint, reveals a process both disciplined and intimate. Her geometric abstractions are disarmingly personal.

 Penelope Jones    Collage #7  from Regenerations   12x11 inches, 2009

Born in Ithaca, NY in 1961, Jones holds a BFA from Maine College of Art and an MFA in painting from Cornell University.  She has been a Lecturer in Art and Visual Culture at Bates College in Lewiston, ME for 12 years. She has exhibited her work nationally, including the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Manchester, NH;  Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, IL and in Maine at Zero Station, Portland;The Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport and the Portland Museum of Art.  She is represented by Susan Maasch Fine Art  in Portland.  Jones resides with her husband, Paul Sarvis, and children in Portland, ME.

 Penelope Jones    Installation, Bates College Museum of Art

In her own words:

"When  paint, I have a need to be both precise and spontaneous in my mark-making -- loving hard-edged lines and structures, while at the same time attracted to the playful and at times happy accidents that occur in moving paint around.  Combining these two near opposite qualities, and finding the right balance between them often drives the work in unanticipated directions.

"My source material for form and content is varied.  I am drawn to designs found in architectural details, decorative tiles, Renaissance paintings and ornamental designs from many cultures. In particular, I have been interested in designs from Islamic architecture and art. I find these designs beautiful and ingenius in their use of shape variation, geometry and repetition.

 Penelope Jones  Untitled,  15x 22 inches  oil on paper

"Along with a unity of organization, color is extremely important to my work; my color decisions are often informed bty natural phenomena such as the play of light and color within cloud formations, or the eeffect of weather on the landscape.

Penelope Jones    Collage #5, from Regenerations 12x11 inches, 2009

"Though painting and collage are quite different, the process of manipulating the surface becomes very much related and is the reason I am so attracted to both mediums.

"Last year I worked with collage to create my recent project titled Regenerations.  The project was shown at the Susan Maasch Gallery in Portland last October.  It comprised nine collage works on paper and was co-sponsored by a faculty grant from Bates College. For this project, I gave myself a challenge to work on a larger scale, and to dismantle finished paintings that I was attached to. As I started cutting these paintings—re-arranging and combining them in new order—I felt a sense of liberation and fully embraced the project.  To let go of my attachment while reusing (honoring, in a sense) my history; to regenerate from what has come before. 

Penelope Jones    Collage #8, from Regenerations,    12x11 inches, 2009
"This project gave me a deeper appreciation for collage as a negotiation between desire and response to the limits and suggestions of the found material. With collage I enjoy the process of cutting, pasting and being able to make changes easily.  I also like how found materials can inform the work in ways that cannot be anticipated.

Penelope Jones  Untitled,   19x17 oil on paper

"Collage has rich history from the Cubists on. I have had longstanding interest in the work of such artists as Kurt Schwitters, Ann Ryan, and Robert Rauchenberg —important pioneers in collage history. Because my painting has been so preoccupied with the play between surface, depth, and geometric planes, it excites me to revisit collage with its embrace of the superimposed plane."

Thanks, Penelope.
Thanks Joshua.


Debra Ramsay said...

Thanks Kate for this insightful post on these two artists, their process, and background on why they do what they do. I'm glad to now be aware of their work.

Kate Beck said...

Thanks, Deb!

Karen Schifano said...

Thank you for showing me two artists that I didn't know about. Maine must be quite a place! I'm especially interested in Joshua's play with representation, probably because I'm thinking about that too. Lovely showcasing of process and finished works.