Rhea Costello featured artist at Nigra Center

GLOVERSVILLE — Rhea Haggart Costello, a painter and ceramic artist, will be the featured artist at the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts’ 2018 Fulton Montgomery Art Show.

Her pieces will be displayed alongside work from artists who live and work in Fulton and Montgomery counties as well as the work of students from the region’s elementary, middle and high schools.

The art show will run until May 14 in the Nigra Arts Center’s gallery at 2736 Route 30. The public is invited to an opening reception on Thursday, April 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. to meet Costello and the other artists and view the works free of charge. After the opening reception, the public may view the show throughout its run weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon for a $5 admission fee

Originally from New York, Costello saw her first glimmer of wonder in the glittering Tappan Zee Bridge on the Hudson River, which she could see from her family’s apartment. From there the family moved to upper Westchester County, where the backyard was a wonderland of woods and brooks to explore. Art was a constant presence in Costello’s childhood.

“Mom constantly kept my sister and me busy with projects,” Costello said. “The focus I had on completing them, done as well as possible, left an impression. In school, we were especially fortunate with the art department’s projects, even in elementary school. I still look back on them with appreciation.”

Costello moved with her family to northern California in 1970, when she was 13. Her journey as a serious artist started there, as art classes became her sanctuary and she focused on her craft.

In 1978, Costello moved back to New York, to the Adirondack Mountains that have provided a backdrop for so much of her work. She continued perfecting her art while working at other occupations and teaching private art classes. Teaching gave Costello an avenue for growth in her own work as well as a network of friends who encouraged her to take it further. She took their advice, and in 2001 Adirondack Rustics Gallery became the first to accept a piece of her work. The piece sold within two weeks.

That first sale started a momentum that has carried Costello through the past 17 years. Work sold quickly to homes across the country, and Costello worked continuously to produce detailed, “experiential” art on commission. She became involved with Adirondack Experience’s Rustic Furniture Fair, collaborating with woodworkers to embellish their furniture and commissioning them to build rustic frames for her paintings. Since 2005, she has been one of five painters juried into the Rustic Furniture Fair, as well as a returning artist in residence.

She was also invited to show work and be an artist in residence at the Lake Placid Lodge. After the original lodge was lost to fire in 2005 and reopened in 2008, she worked with John Graham to produce its signature painting and the Cabin Collection. In 2015, Graham invited Costello to be an artist in residence and instructor at Twin Farms, where she created landscapes of the Vermont property as well as a special style bowl for Chef Nathan Rich. Other commissions of note include the signature painting Costello produced for Clear Path for Veterans in 2011 and artwork The Point requested for their 80th Anniversary.

Costello’s landscapes and wildlife oil paintings exemplify the Adirondack Rustic Art genre. Her style combines intricately orchestrated detail with subtle open space to create the movement and silence found in nature. Working in the studio allows Rhea the time for this meticulous work, but she is also an enthusiastic plein air artist. When she paints in nature, her brush flows loosely to capture the essence of the day and place she experienced.

“I focus on landscapes, wildlife and historical interests,” she said. “I enjoy expressing richly rooted traditions and capturing the movement of trees, depth of details and luminous light.”

Costello’s work is her own vision, resulting from the time spent studying the beauty of the outdoors, but it has been compared to the Hudson River School artists. Her paintings are often finished with natural-edged frames made by her son, Larry Costello.

The first time Costello touched clay was in December of 2013. Her incentive for taking pottery lessons was to find a new canvas on which to print original oil paintings, through ceramic decals. She couldn’t find pottery that matched her vision, so she decided to try to make her own.

“At that first class, I felt the overwhelming sensation of my hands opening to a new ability, as well as the discovery of a life-altering gift,” Costello said.

In January of 2014, after only three classes, she bought her own wheel and set up a pottery studio in her own home. A kiln followed that February, and she began spending every spare moment experimenting and discovering her own style. The idea of creating decals faded fast as she developed a look that celebrated the clay’s natural structural beauty.

“Clay has memory,” Costello said. “It takes on movement of its own. With every step to change its configuration, you get the opportunity to feel what it wants to turn into. Its areas of strength and weakness are enhanced the more you work with it, and this enables it to move as a body.”

“It’s like a dance, feeling the clay move between my hands and allowing it to make the next move.”

Costello’s ceramic work combines throwing pottery with carving to create imitations of leather and metal paired with sculptures of animals and elements of nature. She has sold countless mugs, pitchers, pie plates, vases and bowls to buyers around the country, as special gifts and collector’s pieces as well as for simple everyday use.

For more information, visit www.pncreativeartscenter.org or call (518) 661-9932. For more information about Costello, see www.facebook.com/Costellocostelloart or www.paintingsbyCostello.com.

By Kerry Minor

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