With visions of celestial beings, flashes of nature, and everyday scenes both dreamlike and real, Sheryl Massaro connects the cosmic with the commonplace in “Of the Angels,” a new Riverworks exhibition that sees hard questions about life as new inspiration for reflection and hope.
Featuring 17 oil paintings paired with excerpts from Massaro’s translations of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke, “Of the Angels” explores vivid imagery and subtle emotions that help us recognize and affirm our universal experience. “I’m fascinated by life’s undertow,” Massaro says, “the unspoken, unseen energy that bonds artists and poets with their viewers and readers.”
“Of the Angels” will be on display from Wednesday, November 15, 2023, through Sunday, December 31, 2023, at Locals Farm Market, 19929 Fisher Avenue, Poolesville, Md. This show is the ninth Riverworks “Artist in the House” exhibition to be featured on the second floor of the historic house at Locals.
An opening reception will be held at Locals on Sunday, November 19, 2023, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The reception is free and the public is invited to attend.
The reception will also mark the first book signing of Massaro’s translation of the Duino Elegies, a series of ten mystical poems by Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926). Often cited in popular culture for their references to angels, the Duino Elegies are long, challenging monologues in which Rilke yearns to make sense of love, suffering, beauty, the fragmentation of the modern world, and the humility of all humanity before the vastness of creation.
Each painting in “Of the Angels” is paired with an evocative excerpt from the translation, which Massaro hopes will give modern readers, especially young people, an entry point into these eloquent but daunting poems.
“When I first read the Duino Elegies, I was a depressed 18-year-old,” Massaro recalls. “I didn’t understand what the heck Rilke was saying, but suddenly I was aware that another human had grappled with big life questions and, in that, I was not alone after all. That was a relief.” For Massaro, oil painting is a way to ponder those questions from uncommon perspectives, with what she calls “a deeper, ‘off-to-the-side’ look at life.” Viewers of her work will immediately note a richness of color with a hazy, dreamlike quality that evokes poignant emotion, an effect she achieves by painting not only with brushes and palette knives but also with flexible pottery ribs, spatulas, sea sponges, rags, brush handles, and even her own fingers—whatever it takes to connect with the viewer.
“Sheryl’s desire to make art that reaches out to others is why her show is such a great fit for us,” explains Riverworks co-founder David Therriault. “As a painter, a photographer, and a poet, she’s living proof that art doesn’t need to set boundaries. Viewers who take the time to absorb her words and visions will come away moved.”