Do’s “Light of Air and Summer” exhibition opens at Blue Mountain Gallery

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Audrey Carbonell, Contributing Writer

“There’s a kind of communion with the world that I like, where I become part of nature,” Visual Arts Teacher Kim Do said about the beauty of painting the outdoors. “It’s almost like a loss of individuality in some way that I look for. It feels transcendent to go beyond oneself.”

“Light and Air of Summer,” an exhibit of Do’s last 25 years of work, consists of his paintings of the Catskills and northern California. His show, at the Blue Mountain Gallery in Chelsea, will remain open from February 3 to 27. Do will be in the gallery most Saturdays to interact with visitors, whom he hopes will feel reverence for the natural world within his work, he said. 

Do’s painting “Our Backyard,” which will be displayed in the exhibition, is one of his most impressive paintings, he said. He painted “Our Backyard” in August of 2001, a month before the September 11 attacks, he said. “It kind of speaks to the innocence of the American backyard,” he said. “It harkens back to an earlier time in American history and the idealization of the American home.” 

Do has loved art from an early age, he said. “When I was a toddler, the house painters came and painted the living room a beautiful clean white, and I took an orange crayon and I made a big circle on the wall and filled it in,” he said. 

Based on a concept from Yale University’s art school in the mid-20th century, Do focuses on creating challenging work that is rich in detail, he said. He sees each shape as a small structure, and he works with small brushes on large canvases to give purpose to each individual form, he said. 

When working outdoors, Do prefers to use oil paint because it allows him to work with the canvas for longer periods of time to blend colors together. However, he said that his artistic vision and the transference of his personality through his artwork matters much more than the paint he uses.

Since Do uses observations instead of reference photos when he paints, it’s impossible for him to capture a single moment in time, Do said. As the sun moves, the light conditions change, resulting in inconsistencies in the direction of the shadows. However, it appears that Do has depicted a snapshot of time to viewers, he said.

When creating his pieces, Do works in five-hour sessions. While a small painting can be finished in one session, his larger paintings require multiple sessions to be completed, he said. 

Do draws inspiration from many artists, including Frederic Church, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Rackstraw Downes, Neil Welliver, and Monet. One of his favorite painters is Williem de Kooning, a Dutch-American abstract expressionist. “I really love the way his paint looks on the surface, the way that it interacts with other colors, forms and shapes with overlapping and underlapping,” he said. 

Also on display in the “Light and Air of Summer” exhibition are three of Do’s oculus paintings, created on circular canvases. To begin, Do first draws a circle around himself in the dirt that is divided into nine pie-shaped wedges of 40 degrees, he said. He then draws the same circular diagram on his canvas. “I look at each section at a time, and try to translate each of the pie shaped wedges onto the canvas,” he said. Do sees these paintings as experimental and contemplation pieces, he said.

Although Do has shown his students pictures of his artwork online, it is difficult to recognize the size and detail of the paintings from photographs, he said. It was only when he showed a timelapse in which he set up his exhibition that students realized how large the paintings are. “Seeing artwork live is different,” he said. “I think the energy that one pours into something comes out of it, and when you’re in the presence of those objects you can feel those energies.”

The official opening for Do’s show is 12 p.m. on Wednesday, February 3. Due to health precautions, Do will not have an opening ceremony, and only 10 people will be able view his exhibition at a time, he said. Additionally, the gallery will keep its windows open and require masks to ensure the safety of the viewers, he said.