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Hamptons Life

Feb 3, 2009 1:05 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Mark Perry sees landscapes from another angle

Feb 3, 2009 1:05 PM

Mark Perry will tell you that the best way to experience the landscape is up close and personal.

The East Hampton artist also believes beauty lies in the details: the way trees can appear to be engaged in dialogue; the interaction of knotty patterns on tree trunks; blades of grass that take on a completely different look when viewed as tiny individuals.

Mr. Perry draws on his philosophy of paring down expansive landscapes to provide a personal perspective in his paintings. His newest body of work is the subject of a solo show at New Century Artists in Chelsea curated by Marilyn Stevenson of Southampton, the assistant director of the Chelsea gallery. The exhibition, “Nonscientific Landscapes,” will open with a reception on Thursday, February 5, from 5 to 8 p.m.

The New York show marks a leap forward in Mr. Perry’s career as a painter. A solo show in Chelsea would be a big deal for many artists. For Mr. Perry, it’s also an acknowledgement of time well spent developing his artistic talent for years away from the public eye.

In the 1990s, Mr. Perry studied portraiture and life drawing in the Rhode Island School of Design’s evening division. He drew from live models at the Society of Illustrators and at the Spring Street Studio after moving to Manhattan. In 2000, he started spending time in Amagansett and began painting the landscape.

After painting sweeping vistas, Mr. Perry wanted to try something different. He started taking photographs and examining the scenes caught by his lens. Taking a closer look, he began isolating interesting parts of the landscape that caught his eye, which in turn yielded portraits of the natural components that make up a forest, marsh, cluster of flowers or fields of clover.

“I love looking at nature,” Mr. Perry said. “When you go in that close, you look a little harder. It’s so easy to get glazed over when looking at a landscape. I like the idea of taking a part of it and zeroing in so you can really see it.”

Trees are Mr. Perry’s favorite subjects to bring to the forefront. A fan of nature, he finds the shape and form of trees compelling. As of late, birch trees have found their way into many of his paintings, alongside a well developed sense of humor. He’s also not afraid to take chances.

One of his paintings puts a section of birch tree in a background of DayGlo green. Struck by the way one branch unexpectedly grew horizontally across an expanse of vertical trunks; he brought the unusual growth front and center.

Fields of grass are transformed to appear as if they were beneath a microscope, putting the viewer in a giant world of green oblong shapes. A line of choreographed birches planted in front of the Tate Modern in London have been distilled and placed in a natural setting to resemble trees found in the wild.

Mr. Perry paints with muted greens, using a simple palette in sweeping planes of color. This gives his paintings a lush look and a peaceful ambiance. Many of his paintings are large, giving viewers the sensation of being part of the landscape and lingering there. Others are smaller and painted on oval canvases, accentuating the experience of gazing at a portrait. He created a series of paintings that zoom in on the textured bark of birch trees.

“They are like portraits to me,” he said. “I zero in on what makes the tree unique.”

Mr. Perry, who splits his time between East Hampton and Manhattan, draws inspiration from views that are culled from local vistas and from his travels. He has painted redwoods in California, birches at the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, trees lining a river in Sweden, banyans in Florida and dunes in East Hampton.

He had his first solo show in April 2008 at Surface Library gallery in Springs, where his unusual depiction of the landscape caught the attention of Ms. Stevenson. She visited his studio in East Hampton and offered Mr. Perry a solo show.

He has also exhibited in group shows organized by Haim Mizrahi at Wainscott Studios and his work has been exhibited at Della Femina restaurant in East Hampton.

Sitting in his East Hampton home, looking out over Three Mile Harbor, Mr. Perry seemed excited about his impending solo show. He’s also looking forward to painting more portraits of trees, grasses, dunes, moody forests and whatever else he discovers while spending time in nature.

“I’m excited to find this new direction to focus on,” he said. “A part of me feels like a success because I’ve found something that makes me feel passionate. Discovering I could take a closer look at landscapes and paint, it was really thrilling. It’s endless. There are so many moods in nature. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.”

“Nonscientific Landscapes” opens on Thursday, February 5, with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. at New Century Artists, 530 West 25th Street, Suite 406, New York, and will remain on view through February 28. The “Natural Surroundings” show, on view through February 14, was also curated by Ms. Stevenson of Southampton. For information, visit www.newcenturyartists.org. Mark Perry’s art can be viewed at www.markperry.com.

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