by Rebecca Gregory
A true Vermonter, Robert Waldo Brunelle, Jr.’s exhibit “Cold Snap” (in the Second Floor Gallery at CCV Winooski) speaks to the duality of life in this vibrant and snow covered territory. The paintings exhibited range from depicting the still freeze of a snowy winter night in Cold Snap #3 to the playful colors of the Vermont sky in Single Cloud. Brunelle’s background as an illustrator is clear through his strong and purposeful use of line and shape in his compositions, most obvious in St. Peters School, which emphasizes line and direction with the use of black line on the colorful building-front.
Brunelle’s use of color is perhaps the most intriguing element of his paintings. You would be hard pressed to find a color that is boring or flat within his compositions. Cold Snap #2 uses color to direct the viewer’s eye throughout the painting, resting initially on the almost tye-dyed clouds and bringing them down into the solemn snow covered scene. His skilled command of the acrylic medium in Sunrise makes even a familiar scene, such as the rooftops of buildings, seem exciting and new. The same is true in Single Cloud, where the dynamic color not only captures the reality of a single cloud floating in the sky, but also brings the viewer into a new reality where color is dynamic and illuminating.
Illumination is another skill of Brunelle’s, shining though in the compositions Apartment House and Red Chair. Apartment House, also featured in Brunelle’s first exhibit “Insomnia” in 1983, depicts a large house and a lone streetlamp, imbibing the viewer with a sense of calm and longing, as the light illuminates only part of the house behind it. Red Chair, one of the only interior landscapes in this exhibition, uses light to entice the reader to consider the use of the room the red chair resides in. The only light in the composition is coming from the open door, the rest of the room is shrouded in darkness. One cannot help but question if that is the first light that has been in that room for quite a while.
Brunelle paints Vermont in a way that breathes life into this land that, in long unforgiving winters, can seem almost frozen in time. More of Brunelle’s work can be seen this March at Red Square, in a show titled “Spilling the Beans—The Dropped Food Series”.