"Summer Lunch" painted by Hannah Stoll

Ever feel like time is relentlessly rushing us by? On June 3, Carbondale Art’s R2 Gallery will host an opening reception for two solo shows allowing us to pause and reflect. The shows are by local artists: Hannah Stoll and Esther Macy Nooner. 

Stoll is a self-taught painter and one of many artists working out of the Studio for Arts and Works in Carbondale. She will be exhibiting “Prospects”, a collection of snapshot paintings capturing intimate moments in time.

As Stoll spoke with The Sopris Sun about her work, she sat in the corner of her shared studio space. Behind her, the walls were covered from top to bottom with paintings and studies of figures. Every surface was brimming with paint tubes and brushes; an organized chaos only an artist knows how to maneuver their way through. “Prospects” lay stacked against a corner, vibrant colors and patterns peeking through slits and corners, ready to be hung. 

“Prospects” freezes tender and relatable moments. Working primarily from her own photographs, Stoll aims to recreate a feeling of empathetic connection between the subject and the viewer. It’s easy to project one’s own memories onto her work; it’s even easier to imagine yourself walking through the frame and lounging alongside the figures.

Stoll departs from realism by adding a flattening element to her paintings that removes the subjects from their original background. Although the effect of her wallpaper universe is memorable, Stoll doesn’t foresee the Matisse-inspired aesthetic remaining a constant in her future work.

“It’s all evolving… I’m still just figuring out what I want to paint… I want [my work] to remind people of these pleasant quiet moments in their lives,” said Stoll.

Sharing the R2 Gallery space with Stoll will be Nooner, a photographer who is currently the studio coordinator for photography and new media at Anderson Ranch Arts Center. Nooner’s solo show, “The Nature of Representation: Evidence and Metaphor”, is an unorthodox approach to landscape photography.

Nooner challenges ideologies of beautiful landscape photography by altering the prints. Not only is the notion of beauty in nature challenged, but also the sacredness of the precious photograph itself which Nooner reminds us is only ink on paper. 

During grad school, Nooner took a trip to Iceland and soon found herself in the observer’s seat. She was captivated by how other cultures respected and were stewards of their environments in comparison to a general disregard for land she observed in the United States. Nooner took many photographs during that trip and, although beautiful, she did not feel they were a fair or an accurate representation of reality or the memory.

“In the history of photography, there is the ideology of a photograph being a window or a mirror to another space or some reflection of yourself, and I really wanted to break that expectation,” said Nooner.

The aggressive yet graceful manipulation of ink in Nooner’s images involves a supply of household chemicals and other tools, including Clorox and sandpaper. Within the vast freedom of creative possibility, she restricts the number of chemicals she uses and focuses on the different reactions she’s able to achieve. Nooner intends to break the tradition of landscape photography that gives the viewer a false illusion that the land is untouched and in a perfect state.

Although she doesn’t consider her work environmental activism, nor is there a call to action, she hopes that it opens a conversation about the current state of the land, where individuals can come to their own resolutions.

The opening reception for “Prospects” and “The Nature of Representation: Evidence and Metaphor” will be on First Friday, June 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. with an artist talk at 5:30 p.m. Both shows will be on display starting on May 27 and continuing through July 1.

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