Landscapes and Letters at MCLA Gallery 51


In addition to benefitting from artist Debi Pendell's expertise in the classroom, along with other gallery visitors, students at the College this month may view a distinctive series of her abstract pieces in MCLA Gallery 51.

On several occasions, MCLA art professor Gregory Scheckler invited Pendell to teach his students how to employ the acrylic faux encaustic technique she uses in creating her collages. It's this same style of work that can be viewed in Landscape/Letters Series, which runs through Aug. 23 in the 51 Main Street gallery.

Pendell, who also has work exhibited in the North Adams Co-Op Gallery at 33 Main St., will give an artist talk next Wednesday, Aug. 12, at 4 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public. There, she will discuss her work at both downtown spaces.

The Landscape/Letters Series comes from Pendell's imagination but its origin came only after she accidently came across a handwriting exercise book in Germany. "It was a couple of years before I started putting it in the work," she said. "It ended up in these landscape pieces and as I exhibited the work, people asked questions and told me what they saw."

Her works are investigations of semiotics, language and meaning based in the format of landscape painting. The natural landscapes are layered with alphabet characters she creates from photographs of things in nature - like trees - in a variety of fonts and scripts.

"I seem to be playing with creating the illusion of a space and a place and I do it with abstract means. The letters are one of the things that I use in that I change their scale, size, direction, clarity or lack thereof. I also do this with trees, clouds, color, line and shapes," Pendell explained.  "Everything is used abstractly to create this illusion that we read."

Like a foreign alphabet, Pendell's symbols don't have immediate meaning to those who view her art, which she exhibits both nationally and internationally.

"People seem to see some lyrical quality in all of this text and type. People read them as something other than what they actually are. I've been intrigued by that," she said.

The show is a mix of older and newer acrylic collage and mixed media works with painting and drawing, including 38 pieces created especially for the MCLA Gallery 51 exhibit. It marks the first time the local artist, who moved to North Adams five years ago from New Haven, Conn., has shown her work in the gallery.

 "I'm very pleased. It's a wonderful space. I think they do a thoroughly professional job. I'm just absolutely thrilled that they asked me to exhibit my work," Pendell said.

MCLA Gallery 51, at 51 Main Street in North Adams, is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 413-664-8718, or go to Gallery51 or .