Vicini, which means ‘neighbors’ in Italian, is fitting because this is how Florence and McGuire originally met. With studios near each other in the Piazzale Donatello neighborhood in Florence, these ex-patriate painters would bump into each other often. On any given day, one could run into many painters in the grand entrance stairwell, or at the local Bar Tabbachi, or Cafe. Originally designed to house artists and architects in the late 19th century, these studios have housed many Grenning Gallery artists, from Fenske to Dalessio. The high walls of north facing light, just on the edge of Firenze’s historical district made this building a perfect location for the artists that were graduating from one of the several classical ateliers that are now thriving in this renaissance city. Today, Amy Florence is the only remaining Grenning painter to work out of Studio Donatello.
And “Amici’s” – “Friends” is how they ended up. Sharing a hallway to their respective studios allowed these two artists to get to know each other. Over time they started to hang out at the end of the day, and share notes on their respective work , and after McGuire introduced Amy Florence to his dear old friend Ben Fenske, a tightly knit bond of artists was formed.
Fenske, having great success in his career, left lasting impressions on the aesthetics of both Florence and McGuire, yet in recent years, each respective artist has found confidence in their own footing. Tim McGuire (b.1971 Buffalo, NY), moved up north to Nova Scotia, fell in love, bought a house, and in embracing this new change of locale, has embraced bold saturated colors, and abstract perspectives. McGuire painted two interiors for this exhibition, which both show a colorful sitting area in his new Canadian dwelling. In “Sunflowers and Plums” we see an open book, a traditional wooden chair painted in a rich red, a framed painting (by McGuire himself) on a green wall, an old-fashioned bell-curve lamp, and of course: a bowl of plums and a vase of full-faced sunflowers. In “Reading by Lamplight” we see a similar setup but in a blue-toned room. In each painting, the perspective is not exact, and allows the viewer to “fall-in” to the setup, ready to sit down, read the open books, take a bite of fruit, and smell the flowers.
In “Yellow House in Snow” McGuire chooses an isolated house in a snowy wooded landscape. A stark brown tree trunk dissects the center of the canvas with assertion. A foreground in shadows leads up to a waning south-eastern light. Long slender shadows lay on top of ground, reaching across the meandering stream towards the distant hillside. The warmth McGuire is able to capture in a cold, snowy landscape is astounding. From the warmth in the brown trees, to the yellows and reds found in the white paint, and finally the lavender smoke billowing from the chimney, reminding us of the comforts of shelter.
Since the start of the Pandemic, Amy Florence (b. 1989, London UK) has split her time between her Piazzale Donatello Studio and the countryside home of Ben Fenske, in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Tuscany. This change from city-life to country living, has made an impact on her compositions. Instead of painting studio-still-life’s, Florence has painted subjects with which she lives and works with in Tuscany. From locally picked pear blossoms, to hand-crafted Tuscan pottery, freshly harvested tomatoes, and all the fixings for a Blackberry Pie. Like many of us sequestered at home during the pandemic, Florence acquainted herself with her inner-boulangère, and took the time to make a pie from scratch. With that came two new paintings of the subject: “Blackberry Pie” & “Blackberry Pie, Open Window”. These two new paintings are not simply still life’s, instead they are a testimony of idyllic pastoral living.
Roses and Peonies on Green is one of the largest new canvases from Amy Florence. It showcases a grand display of pink and purple flowers arranged in a variety of vessels. A diagonal composition begins with a table adorned in a linen of seafoam green, encased in broad natural light. A shelf above holds a handmade ceramic jug, a stack of books, and an unframed painting, Hard edges are lost as our eye descends to the right of the canvas, where a doorway holds deep blue shadow, and the taupe wall melts away with loose brushstrokes. Again, this still life is not a study, but rather a celebration of the potential for bounty within one’s home.