A gallery stroll in Old City

Rick Buttari, Deborah Fine, Miriam Singer, Katherine Stanek, Donna Usher

4 minute read

Suddenly it’s autumn and, after the summer hiatus, art exhibitions are blossoming, so let’s do an Old City gallery walk. There is much to be seen. This is just a sampling of the treasures.

At the LGTripp Gallery, paintings by Donna Usher and Miriam Singer surge with vitality. Just being surrounded by these works seems to awaken your senses — you feel more alive and responsive. Usher’s exhibition, Contemplation, in the front gallery, consists of generously sized acrylic-on-panel paintings with vibrant colors in circular forms in the foreground, with rectangular patterns subtly retreating into a third dimension. It feels like a celebration of the joy of life in warm hues and floating forms. Even her blues are vibrant and life-enhancing. The paintings seem spontaneous, but look again and you’ll notice carefully patterned, painstaking forms. My favorite was No. 2, Spring Contemplation, 58″x 44″.

Miriam Singer’s urban scenes, in the Endless Day show in the LGTripp rear gallery, capture in nonspecific forms the look and feel of the city. The multiple colors and outlines of buildings are condensed into landscapes with pencil, ink, marker, intaglio, and acrylic collage on panel. A wall composition of multiple urban architectural forms against a background of more open urban spaces creates a dynamic replication of one city, perhaps Philadelphia. Singer has captured an intense urban rhythm that is contagious.

A short stroll to the Rosenfeld Gallery takes us to a different world — one of abstract, gestural paintings by Deborah Fine and figurative sculpture in concrete by Katherine Stanek. Stylistically with both of a bygone era, they enhance each other, interacting but not interfering.

Pastels are the medium I prefer for Deborah Fine’s art. She has an implicit sense of color and achieves subtle gradations, creating a harmony that feels complete. Among the 48 pastel and acrylic paintings on view, my favorites are A Different Order, pastel, 10″x10″; Sweet July, pastel, 32″x32″; and Green Hill, pastel, 32″x32″. Her colors sing, and she has a gift for selecting just the right spot for the warm color that comes forward in a lyrical composition.

Katherine Stanek creates concrete sculptures from wax figures, continuing a tradition more than 2,000 years old. With that kind of history, is there anything new to say? Actually, she seems to have found some new approaches. Each figure imparts a strong emotional context. Escape, of concrete and supporting steel in an Art Nouveau manner, seems to weep in relief while rising above the turbulence. Dignity, an armless female clothed in green, appraises the scene with a sublime detachment. Fallen is an almost traditional male seated figure, and Forgive, a couple embracing, portrays the joy of anxiety’s end. Frankly I am glad to see that someone is continuing the tradition of three-dimensional forms in figurative sculpture.

Rick Buttari’s drawings and paintings, on exhibition at the F.A.N. Gallery, have such a sense of immediacy that it is difficult to realize that the subjects are from Congressional archives of the 1970s. I felt as if they were about to speak, especially with Leonard and Carrigan, graphite on paper, portraying ’70s Red Sox players. Team Player, graphite on paper, captures the exhaustion of an ardent athlete; healing hands can comfort but not confer new energy. Buttari’s oil paintings on linen are colorful renditions of urban scenes, including some now-historic cityscapes. Retro Phone Call, oil on linen, gives us a vivid recollection of times past, as does the cityscape Storefront with Bay Window. However, I always return to his graphite drawings on paper, such as Family at Swan Fountain. Enjoy each of the 35 works of art. They are well worth your time.

I have always maintained that artists help us to see and through their efforts, colors, shapes, and forms are revealed to us that we never previously noticed, such as Buttari’s painting Blue Towers. Driving into center city on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, I now am conscious of that view, one that I had previously passed thousands of times. Thanks to Rick Buttari’s painting, I finally appreciated its subtle colors and forms.

Rick, you have enlarged my visual memory. Thank you.

Above right: Blue Towers by Rick Buttari, oil, 18 3/8" x 14 1/4"

What, When, Where

Rick Buttari — Pencil and Paint at the F.A.N. Gallery, through September 27. 221 Arch St., Philadelphia. 215-922-5155 or

Deborah Fine and Katherine Stanek at the Rosenfeld Gallery, through September 28. 113 Arch St., Philadelphia. 215-922-1376 or

Donna Usher — Contemplation and Miriam Singer — Endless Day at the LGTripp Gallery, through October 11. 47 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia. 215-923-3110 or

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