Fleeting impressions: Weaver's powers of suggestion

Above, Rick Weaver, "Monday Morning." Below, Rick Weaver, "Morning on the Teatro."

When I wrote about Rick Weaver’s small wall sculptures last May in a review of the exhibition, “Three Realists,” at the Nichols Gallery Annex, I didn’t mention a large painting of an Italian restaurant that Weaver also had on display. But the piece has stayed with me because it veered away from the artist’s meticulous realism into an impressionistic style of painting that hummed with energy.
So my heart beat a little faster when I saw the image accompanying Angelo’s announcement of Weaver’s current show, “The Piazza: Life Sketches in a Tuscan Hill Town.” Entitled “Monday Morning,” the painting is nothing more than a series of quick dabs and strokes of color that combine to yield a lively Italian street scene filled with light. What’s particularly stunning, though, is the image is a watercolor.
To be blunt, I am not a watercolor fan, although I appreciate the technical skill the medium requires. That said, I have never seen watercolors like Weaver’s! Rather than manipulate fluid bleeds and translucent shades, Weaver treats watercolors like oils, building up almost opaque layers with colors that are unexpectedly saturated and vivid. Yet a closer look reveals Weaver also takes advantage of the medium’s transparency to create shifting shadows and variations in the play of light.
Angelo’s exhibition presents a series of mostly small vignettes Weaver painted during two summers in Italy. Each has the energy of an impromptu sketch that captures a fleeting moment. Unlike the frozen stillness of a snapshot, though, the way Weaver applies paint to the page creates the illusion that the movement continues. It’s spellbinding, especially considering how abstract his strokes are–a splotch of turquoise here, a streak of violet there, a small arc of green, a few dots of orange.
Yet these impressionistic images are unmistakably drawn from life (the Italian tourism board should consider commissioning Weaver since he makes the viewer want to step into each scene). One of the most evocative works is “Morning Light on the Teatro.” A few strokes indicate people milling about a darkened town square as sunlight illuminates the clay-tiled roof and upper region of a stucco building in the background. The same teal and lavender Weaver uses to create the sky, he uses again to convey shadows beneath the building’s arches and overhang. It’s a mastery of color that’s simply jaw dropping.
Weaver’s paintings are literally strokes of genius. And to think they’re watercolors.

Rick Weaver’s exhibition, “The Piazza: Life Sketches in a Tuscan Hill Town,” is on view at Angelo through October 31. 220 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 971-9256.