Shona Macdonald: Terrestrial Vale

June 22 - September 24, 2018

Terrestrial Vale is my ongoing series of silverpoint and graphite works on paper depicting fledgling plants prepared for winter with veils of garden netting. These utilitarian protective coverings, found within the western New England landscape where I live, symbolize human hopefulness, resourcefulness, and invention. On the other hand, looking as they do like shrouds, they can translate into symbols of abandonment, absence, and ghostliness. Isolated, and at odds with their surroundings, these figure-like structures become metaphors for our own increasing sense of dislocation and displacement from the places in which we live and work.

Silverpoint, a technique of drawing on prepared paper using a stylus of silver, results in a faint, ghostly image. I am interested in how this diaphanous effect suggests memory in the sense of seeing something we have seen before, or what Marvin Carlson refers to as “ghosting” in his book The Haunted Stage. Indeed, the organic, billowing shapes of the nets resemble the outlines of imaginary ghostly figures hovering within the landscape. Silverpoint marks morph over time from a cold silver into a warm sepia tone. Thus, the transitory nature of the plants—their growth, need for tending, and eventual decay—is echoed by the transitory nature of the medium I’ve used to depict them.

— Shona Macdonald

Shona Macdonald’s landscapes in Terrestrial Vale are a tour de force of draftsmanship. They are rich in evocative mystery, despite their straightforward pictorial nature. Macdonald’s eerie scenes of plants covered for winter are devoid of people, yet human handiwork is always present in the form of protective netting. This incongruity creates an opportunity for dialogue between what is seen and what is implied or felt. The veils of semitransparent netting both cloak and reveal, making Macdonald’s scenes as elusive and mysterious as a landscape shrouded in mist. They allow us to enter an enchanted land, a dreamscape. And, as in a dream, wonder, delight, puzzlement, and discovery are ours.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator


Photo Gallery


August 23, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. – Artist Talk: Shona Macdonald – CANCELLED