The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion will present an exhibition focusing on a community of artists surrounding New Jersey native and revered American landscape painter Lois Dodd. “Painting the Moon and Beyond: Lois Dodd and Friends Explore the Night Sky,” opening Friday, November 19, and on view through April 29, 2022, will include 75 paintings by Dodd, Jeff Epstein, Dan Finaldi, and Elizabeth O’Reilly. This is the first time these paintings are being shown together.
Communities of artists have always been a part of Dodd’s life, from her early years at Cooper Union and Skowhegan, to the New York galleries where she exhibited with Alex Katz, Philip Pearlstein, Tom Wesselmann, Yvonne Jacquette, and others.
Communities of artists can be a space for nurturing and encouragement. “Had it not been for Lois, many of us wouldn’t be where they are today,” says Finaldi.
Dodd, 94, a founding member of the legendary artist-run Tanager Gallery, has, for more than 70 years, painted her surroundings—New York’s Lower East Side, rural Mid-Coast Maine, and the Delaware Water Gap.
Among her favorite subjects—and the central theme of the exhibition—is the night sky. Together with former students and painting colleagues Epstein, Finaldi, and O’Reilly, Dodd has ventured out on summer nights to paint the moon and the stars. “People love night paintings,” says Joan Perkes, Trenton Museum Society President. “They are magical.”
“These artists share an affinity for subject matter, if not style, and feed off each other’s creativity,” says curator Ilene Dube. “The paintings they make of each other are evidence of that camaraderie.”
In addition to the nocturnes, “Painting the Moon and Beyond” will look through windows and doors, and at portraits the artists have made of each other, including one by painter Mel Leipzig of Trenton. It was Leipzig who introduced Epstein to Dodd, and Dodd who introduced Finaldi to Leipzig.
O’Reilly, who has spent many summers with Dodd in her Cushing, Maine, residence, says, “After breakfast Lois will say, ‘What are you going to paint?’ There’s no wiggle room to procrastinate.”
New York Times critic Roberta Smith wrote that “Dodd loves the observed world, the vagaries of nature and the specificities of old Maine houses: the way they cleave to the ground, or fill a picture frame, or shine, lights on or off, in the moonlight. She always searches out the underlying geometry but also the underlying life, and the shear strangeness of it all.”
A pioneering woman artist, Dodd has been the subject of more than 50 solo exhibitions since 1954, a time when female artists didn’t receive the opportunity and recognition of their male counterparts. Her work is in the collections of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, the Colby College Museum of Art, the Farnsworth Art Museum, and the Portland Art Museum, among others. “Painting the Moon and Beyond” comes on the 25-year anniversary of a retrospective of Dodd’s work at The Trenton City Museum. Of that exhibition The New York Times wrote, “she paints imaginatively, with wit.”