Over the years, painter Mary Bourke has developed a signature style. Whether landscape or figure, she presents her subjects in generally warm tones, in a kind of abstracted aura that is appealing to the eye. The 28 acrylic on birch panel pieces in this exhibition, all painted over the past year and a half, continue her exploration of coastal and familial motifs, but in some cases with an added tension.
Of particular interest are several images of families. Riding to the Edge (at 24-by-30 inches, the largest painting in the show) depicts a couple with two children standing by the sea, and a couple of lobsterboats anchored offshore. There is an uneasy quality to the scene, expressed by the awkward stances of the four figures and the bikes in the foreground: a tipped-over tricycle and a bicycle cut off by the edge of the panel. It recalls the final lines of Richard Hugo’s poem “A Snapshot of the Auxiliary”: “This next one in the album/is our annual picnic. We are all having fun.”
Bourke’s figures have always been faceless; she is more interested in capturing comportment than detailed features. In Camping in the Field, three figures stand and sit before a tent, their faces blank. They are dressed well for this outing—the man wears a vest and tie—but their stiff poses hint at disquiet.