Arlene Distler


Myles Danaher at Hooker-Dunham Gallery

Myles Danaher’s show, NEW WORK, at the Hooker-Dunham Gallery clearly owes a huge debt to Cezanne. Especially in the expansive new pastels, space and form are broken down into swathes of color. The whole surface is set to shimmering with light and air. Danaher has been working with this medium for three years, the better to work “en pleine aire”. These large pastels are the most successful of the new work shown here.

Many of the pastels were executed outside at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, where Danaher has done numerous residencies, and which has abundant landscape opportunities, nestled as it is in the Green Mountains. But this work is much less about place than his stated aim to find “the macrocosm in the microcosm”. To a remarkable degree, he has succeeded.

The Red Mill, a building on the VSC Campus with which I am very familiar, has been transformed into an orchestration of rose-red played against greens and blues, a Hans Hoffmann-like abstraction. It is one of the finest pieces in the show.

A grouping of three small sketches in watercolor, gouache, and pencil, all studio pieces, are reminiscent of John Marin or Marsden Hartley. All are recollections of place, a muscle of visual memory that Danaher would do well to flex more often. Clouds swirl, mountains skip across the surface. The mark-making is playful but not arbitrary.

The oils are my least favorite pieces in this show. They lack the lightness, the charm of the pastels. Mostly small pieces, they are dense, thickly impasto-ed landscapes, their palette brooding.

There are almost three shows within “New Work”. There are the pastels, bright, lux, and energetic; the watercolor/gouaches which have a romantic feel; and the oils which seem encumbered and weighed down by the medium. It will be fascinating to see where the inevitable process of integrating the three modalities will lead. Particularly, there is a sensuality in the oils, as in “Blue Clouds Over Dark Woods”, in which the elements of earth and air reach toward one another with sensuous abandon, that waits to be mined.


Brattleboro Reformer
2009