Bastille Day show focuses on French artist's textiles

"Starry Night, After van Gogh," by textile artist Gisèle Mac Harg, the selected artist for Découvert Fine Art's Bastille Day exhibition. Découvert is hosting a public reception on Sunday, July 14, from 2 to 7 p.m. at its gallery on Main Street in Rockport. 

ROCKPORT — A local art gallery is celebrating its latest exhibition, featuring a French artist's work, with an opening reception this Sunday, which is Bastille Day.

Découvert Fine Art gallery owners Steven Law and Donald Stroud have chosen textile artist Gisèle Mac Harg, who was born in a small village in France, as their fourth Bastille Day Artist.  The downtown gallery's Bastille Day exhibition opens with a free public reception on Sunday, July 14, from 2 to 7 p.m. at the gallery.

Mac Harg was born in a small village in France and later moved to the United States where she taught foreign languages in Vermont schools for 38 years. After that she delved into her art form starting in 2008. 

"We are known primarily for our interest in master drawings from the 16th to the 20th century, and our continuing exhibits in Rockport, Boston, New York and Paris reflect that. But Bastille Day allows us to use the surprise of discovery to benefit a living artist," Law said. "Cape Ann has a connection to the rich textile heritage here through the Folly Cove Designers so it seems a perfect match."

Law and Stroud met the artist during Wassail weekend, an annual tradition in Woodstock, Vermont.

"We were shopping for presents at a holiday fair when we stumbled upon Gisèle’s booth filled with hooked seat covers, table runners, and other pieces that seem to exist only for the pleasure of viewing, like small paintings," Law said. "We were immediately drawn to her colors and textures, and purchased one of her art pieces to give to a friend in Germany. But we couldn’t part with it. We kept seeing the possibility of an exhibition." 

Law and Stroud visited the artist at her home near South Royalton, Vermont, to see more work. 

"At first, her reliance on other artists gave us pause, but we were won over by her color achieved through a magical alchemy of dyeing materials in boiling water and vinegar. After some strawberries and tea and shared stories, we made our decision, solely on the conviction of color," Law said. "Over time, we felt our way into her life and work, and our enthusiasm grew. Her work is direct and without pretension."

The daughter of a grain farmer in France, Mac Harg spent her childhood immersed in a world of expansive fields, skies, nature and farm animals. She also was surrounded by women who were “artists" at knitting, tailoring, or embroidery, said Mac Harg.

At 13, her father took her to the Louvre in Paris to introduce her to artists he admired, such as Delacroix, Monet, Millet, Rembrandt, and da Vinci, among others.

Mac Harg's exhibition is titled "After," a straightforward way of conveying that she is inspired by other artists, such as Monet, van Gogh, Cassatt, Homer, Modigliani, Hokusai, and cave painters from Chauvet, said Law.

"Their paintings of fields, children playing, people working, and mothers caring for children speak to her in a spiritual, personal way," Law said. "Subjects are edited to suit her medium, then surrounded by patterns and colors unique to each piece."

Mac Harg said she hopes viewers will be moved by the harmony of color or captivated by the familiar idea.

"I certainly hope that each work takes them on a voyage to nourish a dream or invoke their own private memories, pleasures, and emotions," she said.

The artist created a work based on van Gogh's "Starry Night."

"I was captivated by this painting long before I was aware of the tragic circumstances surrounding its creation. In the villages where I grew up and live now, away from cities, stars seem close to the Earth. They are light in the darkness that changes color. I found the bright swirls over the sleepy town exciting to create," she said in an artist statement. 

In addition to champagne, viewers can expect to meet the artist, see her work, and listen to her son Iain play a bagpipe made by her husband Michael.

"Bastille Day is the day we use for openings for artists we discover. It has become a tradition, doesn't compete with other openings in the area, and resonates with Decouvert, which means 'discovered'," Law said. "Unintentionally, four of the five artists we have promoted have connections to France."

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.

IF YOU GO

Who and what: Gisèle Mac Harg chosen as Bastille Day artist.

When: Opening reception Sunday, July 14, from 2 to 7 p.m.

Where: Découvert Fine Art, 73 Main St., Rockport