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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

Extraordinary Ordinary: Molly Hawley’s paintings exhibit in town

Serious Play, by Molly Hawley.
Serious Play, by Molly Hawley.

Amidst midterm stress and unpredictable weather, art serves as a means of relaxation. Local artist Molly Hawley’s exhibition “Extraordinary Ordinary: Landscapes and Portraits,” currently on display in the Jackson Gallery at Town Hall Theater, beautifully captures vivid fall foliage, seaside scenery and lifelike portraiture. 

Hawley’s title, “Extraordinary Ordinary,” aims to convey that she has found great beauty and inspiration in people and places that are not particularly staged or unusual. She wants the audience to know if you learn to see clearly you will be able to find great beauty and inspiration. 

“Perhaps most important is the joy I get from seeing and portraying the beauty of the visual world,” Hawley told The Campus. “In portraiture, that joy is also a result of revealing the character and mood of a person as those things are shown in physical form. Most of my subjects I know and love, and that love inspires me to portray them as beautifully as I can. In landscape painting, I also aim to celebrate the beauty I see all around me. And very often I seem to be attracted to scenes which mirror my inner feelings and moods.”

It includes a rich variety of paintings, featuring seaside scenes on Cape Cod, snow in Vermont, autumn foliage scenes and colorful portraits. Hawley currently resides in Ripton, Vt., and most of the work currently featured in the Jackson Gallery has been done in these past 18 years she has lived in Vermont — capturing what she said was the simultaneous solitude and beauty of living in Ripton.

“Some might walk into the gallery and say the works are by different artists, but it is in fact one person’s perspective on different scenes,” said Ellie Friml, the gallery manager. “Her paintings are very diverse.”

While the exhibit includes some paintings where Hawley began by working from photographs, she has also spent a lot of time painting from life in both landscapes and portraits. When working from photographs, Hawley said her goal is not to replicate them exactly, but to allow the looser quality of the paint to breathe more life into the pictures. Even the so-called “mistakes” are left embedded in the final version of a painting, she said. 

“The portraits have dynamic personality and invite you into the rooms with their subjects,” Lisa Mitchell, executive director of Town Hall Theater, said. “The descriptive details, such as the girl in the tutu and muck boots on her first day of school, bring you into a highly personal and endearing moment in time.”

Mitchell told The Campus she has heard from visitors that Hawley’s images evoke personal memories for audiences, which she credits to the depth of reality in the paintings. “One woman swooned over the Cape Cod images,” she added. “The beach landscape reminded of her long-time visits to Martha's Vineyard. The boy on the beach could have been her son, she said,” Mitchell added. 

Inspired by the writings of Hawley’s spiritual teacher, Adi Da Samraj, the exhibit features a multimedia work made of fabric and thread. The piece represents abstract forms rather than observed physical forms, similar to many of the exhibit’s other works. Hawley said she plans to continue painting landscapes and portraits as well to incorporate more fabric works inspired by her spiritual teacher. 

Hawley, who began her undergraduate studies at Middlebury, went on to specialize in graphic art at the Boston Museum School and The Cleveland Institute of Art, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking. Hawley has worked extensively with other media, including pastel and oil painting, as well as multi-media works that combine fabric, photography and drawing. 

This exhibit is the second time Hawley has had work featured in the Jackson Gallery. According to Friml, she and the other staff at Town Hall Theater have continued to want to work with Hawley because she is skillful, accomplished and able to fill the space of the room well with her large paintings.

“Hawley is a very warm person, and you can feel that her warm personality comes through her work,” Friml said. 

Hawley’s exhibit will be on display in the lower level of the Jackson Gallery until Nov. 4. Town Hall Theater is located at 68 Pleasant Street, and is open Monday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Hawley’s own gallery, True Water, is located in Ripton and welcomes visitors by appointment. More information can be found on Hawley’s website