“Oriental Poppies, Iris & Rhododendron in Picasso Vase,” by Beverly Hallam.

Originally conceived as an early-April show — as both an antidote to the cruelest month’s lingering gloom and a reminder that spring, with its florid proliferation of life, was on the horizon — the exhibit “Floriography: The Language of Flowers” feels even more timely in its new slot as the first post-lockdown exhibition at Cove Street Arts and its message more immediate, urgent and life-affirming.

This exhibition presents a conversation between the work of four stylistically diverse female artists, each in dialogue with her subject matter, with her media and the act of mark-making, and with floral painting as a historical genre.

Using a visceral painting language to describe the natural world in structural terms, and aiming to capture a moment in time, Eileen Gillespie’s vibrantly expressionistic oil paintings are joyful, and the floral subject becomes a means to further explore the medium of painting itself.

The exhibition also includes a selection of works on paper from the estate of Maine Master and nationally-known pioneering postwar female artist Beverly Hallam. These works span from 1961 to 2007, and media include pastel, acrylic, ink, oil monotype and charcoal. They beautifully display the artist’s verve and virtuosity, as well as her enduring fascination for floral still lifes.

Maret Hensick’s poignant and poetic mixed media on paper series, Flowers Past and Present, honoring her mother’s love of flowers and travel, was begun in July 2019, four months after her death. Dissatisfied with her first attempt at portraying a single white phlox from the artist’s garden as “a big white flower of impressive delicacy to express all the grief and love [she] was harboring,” Hensick began picking and painting in additional flowers as they bloomed. She then constructed graceful and intricate vases for the flowers, using materials from a box of her mother’s mementos (old letters, stamps, wine bottle labels, Chinese cutouts, cards from the ’20s and ’30s, postcards and maps). The work in this series is deeply personal, richly symbolic, and eloquently spoken in the language of flowers.

Marjorie Moskowitz is interested in the tension between manmade order imposed on the landscape and nature’s “insistence to re-assert itself.” This exhibition features striking, large-scale realist oil paintings of Maine flowers taken from her Observations and Amplifications series. For Marjorie, “activated surface, abstract surface, patterns and color are a lifelong dialogue.” These paintings capture plants “at the peak of their reproductive cycle, when they are fully asserting their seductive beauty/perfection/splendor/brilliance. The scale is an invitation for the viewer to experience the blooms and the importance of their smallest elements.”

The exhibit is on view June 1 to Aug. 1 at Cove Street Arts, 71 Cove St., Portland.

The show “Portland 2020,”curated by Bruce Brown, has been extended through June 6, and “Gardenship: First Voyage,” curated by John Bisbee, has been extended through July 4.

Call 207-808-8911 or email [email protected] for more information.

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