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Golden Apples 

Still-life paintings flow with feeling

...And pluck till time and times are done, The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun." One hundred years ago, when W.B. Yeats wrote these evocative lines in The Song of Wandering Aengus, the poet was not referring to painting in the 21st century, yet his idea of enjoying nature's ephemeral bounty is visualized in certain kinds of painting today.

The genre of still-life painting has its own visual versions of both "the golden apples of the sun," in which the artist renders nature's bounty plucked recently, and the more melancholy renderings of "the silver apples of the moon." Both versions are currently on view in Charlotte.

In the work of Charles Gilbert Kapsner, on view through November 28 at Queens Gallery, we see both kinds of still-life painting -- the cheerful and the moody. Kapsner's classic compositions (reminiscent of painters from the Dutch masters to Cezanne), such as "Bowl of Apples" (with its realistic-looking fruits), are painted in rich, pleasurable color. Other satisfying, cheery paintings include two apples on a damask tablecloth called "Pink Lady," and a trio of little paintings, one of a pepper, one of three cherries, and one of a single peach. Another small painting features a dazzling orange-colored pepper resting on a purple cloth. Yet another, an attractively composed rendition of Autumn (complete with a pumpkin, squashes and peppers), is set within a fabulous hand-made Italian frame.

But besides these festive homages to the pleasures of bourgeois domesticity, the not-so-recently-plucked inhabit Kapsner's paintings, too, in his compellingly darker vanitas. In Kapsner's versions of vanitas -- painted references to the brevity of life on earth, which gained popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries in the Netherlands, and which are now an established genre of painting -- the artist uses some of the classic elements to symbolize time passing: mirrors, timepieces, scales, skulls, fruits and flowers, butterflies, dripping candles. In one self-portrait on smooth, linen-faced wood, Kapsner paints his own reflection in a mirror, accompanied by an empty bottle of 1990 Chianti, a skull, and two bouquets of dark, dusty, dying flowers. A sphinx crouches beneath a drooping branch.

Kapsner's style is the "no-brushstroke" variety, and his oils, with surfaces as smooth as glass, are generally painted on linen stretched tightly across wood panel. He paints layers and layers of primer, medium, and glazes to build these glossy surfaces.

Kapsner is well known in Charlotte as being the project coordinator and associate artist for Ben Long's St. Peter's triptych, and the Bank of America triptych, and others. Kapsner, who is largely self-taught in oil painting, studied as an adult in Florence and served an apprenticeship with Ben Long from 1975-80. Kapsner has developed a Botticelli-like -- or Ingres-like -- line, strong yet sensitive, and much of the strength of Long's team of artists comes from Kapsner's ability to draw well. This artist's renderings of hands -- whether seen in a small drawing of "Hecate," or in oil -- demonstrate that his strongest point may be drawing, deft and sure.

Besides fresco and oil, the artist exhibits facility in simple pencil and charcoal drawings, such as "The Fur Trader," a study for Beginnings, which is a large fresco mural project Kapsner designed for a Minnesota community. He also renders the human face and form well, and the large charcoal, "The Three Faces of Leah / Veruca," has nary a false mark.

In Queen's Gallery, the space is dominated by a huge stately standing figure of a woman rendered in charcoal and graphite. This is a particularly commanding position where the altar would be in this converted church. Flanked by two smaller fresco studies, this larger-than-life-size drawing has an odd tilt to the head, and the figure is holding a symbolic object of some sort. The woman's stance is a little awkward, but this makes the drawing particularly individual.

You will admire Charles Gilbert Kapsner's paintings and drawings, some of which capture the "...vanity of human existence and the transience of human pleasures...", on display at Queen's Gallery, located at 1212 The Plaza, through November 28, 2001. For more info, call 704-372-2993, or go to www.buonfresco.com.

Besides Kapsner's linen paintings on panel and handsome drawings, several other expressions of still life are on display elsewhere in Charlotte.

* Reality In Question, a group show at Joie Lassiter Gallery, features four artists working in -- or adjacent to -- the genre of still life.

In particular, Bruno Civitico's oil on canvas gives us a hearty experience of fruits almost surreal in their beauty. They're so perfect. Are they wax?

To enrich your still-life experience, see Reality In Question at Joie Lassiter Gallery, located at 318 East Ninth Street downtown, another place where "The silver apples of the moon, The golden apples of the sun..." are visualized.

For more information, call 704-373-1464, or go to www.lassitergallery.com.

* A Charlotte artist who's originally from Russia, and an accomplished still-life painter herself, presents a series of figure paintings at Pomegranate Gallery. See Anna Dlougolenskaia's Nine Nudes on view through November 30 at Pomegranate Gallery, located at 908 E. 35th Street in the North Davidson Street arts district. Her last show was a treat, and this one promises more good painting.

* More art with a Russian connection coming up this weekend in Charlotte can be viewed in Discovering Russia 2000, an exhibition of photographs by Diane Davis, on display in Dana Auditorium at Queens College from November 3 through 30, 2001. On Sunday, November 4, Ms. Davis will give an Artist's Talk at 4pm in the Sykes Building on campus, with a reception following in the Dana Auditorium Gallery from 5-7pm. For a preview of Discovering Russia 2000, go to www.dianedavisphoto.com.

Also Of Interest: The Mint Museum of Art presents a series of Artists' Forums titled "What's Happening in Charlotte" and focusing on topics such as public art, painting, sculpture, photography and the art community. This free public program meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the Mint Museum of Art on Randolph Road. The opening forum, on November 2 at 7:30pm, is a program about Charlotte area public art.

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