A diary can be described as the capsule of one’s adventures and passions, and a means of providing a safe haven for complete individual expression. Artist Michael Gallagher provides the Fairfield University Art Museum with his own colorful diary that holds numerous paintings from his journeys around the world. Including pieces depicting the beauty of North America to the alluring charm of Europe, Gallagher provides artwork ranging from the beaches of Maine to the hills of Italy. Opening his artistic diary for the Fairfield community provides viewers with a first class ticket to the most beautiful landscapes and sceneries around the world.
The exhibition entitled “A Plein Air Journal” can be translated to, “being outdoors” — an outdoor journal. According to Gallagher, he was slightly hesitant about putting his pieces on display.
“This was all Linda’s [Linda Wolk-Simon, director of the Bellarmine Museum, Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery and University curator] idea. I was a very reluctant dance partner, I told her these paintings are sort of private for me. I typically just do this for myself and it’s more like keeping a diary, which is how she came up with the idea of the title, the idea of a journal. She was very persuasive and I’m very glad she thought of me.”
Showcasing over 40 landscapes, the exhibition highlights Gallagher’s graceful watercolor skills and some oil pieces as well. Using mediums such as watercolor, wax crayons and candle wax, Gallagher is able to portray detailed hills and rushing water.
Sophomore Daniel Pisani enjoyed his experience at the exhibition. “I find it interesting that Gallagher can incorporate so many different styles of landscapes. In the Northern California collection one piece demonstrates really calm water and the piece next to it shows aggressive and rapid waters, so it’s just really interesting how he can capture the different weather patterns through these different landscapes,” said Pisani.
In addition to travelling the world and painting beautiful landscapes, Gallagher is also the Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge of the Department of Painting Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He’s worked on conserving pieces from renowned artists including Botticelli, Michelangelo, Rubens and many others.
“I’ve always done work, but I’ve done a lot of things in the city and in Italy, and I began to consistently do landscape pieces starting in the early 2000s,” explained Gallagher. “A lot of it had to do with where I was. When I have the free time it’s normally when I travel to somewhere, and I gravitate towards some of the beauty of the landscapes. I still am really excited if I see ruins and buildings of the sort.”
Fairfield Art Museum intern Katie Duncan ‘18 talked about her experience with not only observing the exhibition but also having the opportunity to speak with the eloquent Gallagher.
“From an intern’s perspective, we’ve worked on this for several months and it’s really cool to see how it all came together. Our last exhibition was also a landscape exhibition, so it’s kind of interesting to see another landscape exhibition because I personally really like landscapes,” said Duncan. “Also, it’s really cool that Michael Gallagher is here because I’ve had the opportunity to meet with the artist and he’s such a humble man.”
The work in the exhibition ranges between the years from when he was still a student (1981) until 2016. Although it may appear that there are some time gaps amongst the paintings, this is simply because Gallagher was painting buildings and other sorts of images rather than landscapes — which the exhibition is focused on. Support of the exhibition is provided by the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation and will be on display until Sept. 8.