“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
This quote by conservationist Rachel Carson resonates with local DC artist Regina Miele. Carson’s book Silent Spring was the inspiration for her current exhibition. Miele’s past works have highlighted an ever-changing and rapidly redeveloping District of Columbia; however, this essay of paintings and drawings capture the beauty and stillness of nature within the city and pays homage to Carson and the local places she had visited over 50 years ago.
Miele is a classically trained painter who explores and depicts principles of order and place within her works. She attended the Catholic University of America and studied abroad at the Scuola Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence, Italy where she experienced an intensive studio concentration in painting, drawing, sculpture, and theory. This structured education allows the artist to connect to surroundings, whether it is interiors, cityscapes or nature. She is an avid hiker, seeing nature not only through the observations found in Carson’s writings, but reveling in both its splendor and fragility.
Miele’s show includes oil paintings and charcoal drawings exhibited on the perimeter of the ballroom gallery at the Woman’s National Democratic Club. As you walk into the space, the group of large paintings seems to surround you with images reflecting the common theme of water and movement. Two paintings, Into the Anacostia, Winter and Aqueduct with Cadmium Light, drew my immediate attention, straddling between realism and abstraction. With the former, Miele captures pebbles and rocks beneath the water’s surface in perfect detail as white swatches and concentric rings provide an impeccable depth perspective. The latter continues the same effect of naturalism and abstraction, where the large exposed rock draws your eyes to the shimmering gold area of moving water. A prominent focal point of this work is the wavy blue and black band. Is this a sunlit reflection or toxicants in flowing waters about which Carson tried to raise awareness?
The artist continues variations on water in nature, illustrating rivers and lakes which are in constant flux due to inflows and outflows. A trio of paintings in the show depict these various degrees taking us from fall into spring. In Sligo Creek, Autumn, Walking with Falling Water and Decent to the Potomac, Miele uses her masterful technique of capturing light and movement simulating seasonal change.
Complementing her oil works, Miele has included charcoal drawings as part of the exhibit. Coming out of the urban woods, she has captured one of the busiest bridges in Washington in both oil and charcoal at dusk and evening. There is a stillness and calmness to this landmark, as the linear structure leads your eyes to the reflection of the streetlights on the Potomac as the river flows underneath. According to the artist, she is able to try different things with charcoal to convey emotion and intimacy by transporting us to the time and place when she captured the image.
The impact of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring inspired a generation and created a worldwide environmental awareness especially within the arts. Instead of using her work to publicize the harmful environmental and ecological consequences of a society unable to control itself, Miele used the book to guide her on a journey of observation. From walking, looking and listening she was able to connect with nature to understand and depict its fragility. In the process, her shared experience with the author is one of respect and ultimately, an ode to life’s resilience.
All Good Things are Wild and Free is on view through until September 3rd, 2019 at the Woman’s National Democratic Club at 1526 New Hampshire Avenue, NW in the ballroom gallery. For more information, visit www.democraticwoman.org