They sit in a corner, two heads, two pairs of eyes seemingly fixed on the long canvas of swirling colors and shapes at the far wall of the narrow gallery. Perhaps their gaze occasionally shifts to the left, to a wall of dozens of works and knickknacks that inspired their makers.
One will never know what the "Two Heads Times Two" images are really thinking, since they are merely a painting on an easel brought to life by the imaginations and brush strokes of artists Elizabeth Nagle, of New Canaan, and Mary Elizabeth Peterson, of Westport. The 30-by-30-inch canvas is just one visual representation of the creative collaboration that gave shape to "Two Heads Are Better Than One," an art exhibition of paintings and mixed-media work that runs through Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the University of Connecticut Stamford Art Gallery.
Peterson and Nagle met several years ago in a mixed-media class taught by the late Barbara Rothenberg, a Westport artist and instructor who they both considered a mentor. The two soon bonded as artists and friends.
"The show has been a bit of a journey," Peterson said. "Many people commented on a number of similarities in the work ... so we knew our work would show well together."
Although the artists may be similar in the forms and colors they use, Nagle said their inspirations bubble up from different sources. Peterson is largely drawn to water in its various forms. Nagle's view is a bit broader.
"I do everything from giant heads to little tiny scribbles," Nagle said. "I'm kind of all over the place."
Yet, the duality of the show afforded the women an opportunity to take some chances when it came to the installation.
"We didn't want to be married to the traditional version of a gallery show," Peterson said. "We wanted to be more creative and flexible and open with each other."
Such freedom manifests itself in the wall of sketches, collages, scraps of paper, buttons, toy soldiers and other items that spurred the artists' completed works in the gallery.
"Being an artist can be very scary. You are really exposing yourself," Nagle said. "The thing about the wall that was so nice was that there were no expectations in those little pieces. ... We didn't have to decide was this one better than that one or more finished."
The two artists said it was important to both of them to expose people to the creative process and to reveal how artists think and work.
"We took that one wall and filled it with everything from scraps of paper that we found on the street to some smaller finished work," Nagle said. "People can then see some of the bigger finished pieces on the other wall. Whether everyone will come to grasp that or get it, I don't know."
For Peterson, the "sketch" wall provides a look into idea evolution.
"We show you these little seeds of ideas at germination," she said, adding that some fully lived and others dead-ended.
And there were some ideas that took shape as the show evolved, including a large canvas on the back wall, "Leftfielding," the second of two works the artists created together.
"We had not planned on that," Peterson said of the work.
Although the images and theme reflect an attention to dual creativity, Rothenberg, who died in June, is a third force in the show.
"I don't think this show would have come to fruition without Barbara," said Nagle, and Peterson agreed.
UConn Stamford Art Gallery, One University Place, Stamford, is open Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For information, call 203-251-8400 or visit www.stamford.uconn.edu/ArtGallery.
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