Fountain Street Fine Arts Hosts Exhibit 'The Balance Between'

November 2, 2012

Beloved Wellesley College Kopf Professor of Art Emeritus James Wilson Rayen has been painting for more than six decades. His work is on display through November 4 at Fountain Street Fine Art in Framingham, in an exhibit called The Balance Between. A gallery talk is scheduled for November 3 at 3:00 p.m.

Rayen’s work will be shown along with paintings of Cheryl Clinton. Nature and landscape, with water in one form or another translated in paint, link the work of both painters featured in this exhibit. Rayen describes the challenge of making a painting as “finding the balance between observation, memory, and invention—each plays an essential role.” Clinton’s work takes direct cues from the natural world, but all of the paintings are created in the studio, and are as much about the nature of paint and painting as they are reflections of the natural world.

“Rayen’s biography reads like a ‘who’s who’ of 20th century art history,” as the gallery’s blog says. In his early years he studied under the influence of Patrick and Maud Morgan at Phillips Andover Academy, and went on to earn his B.F.A. and M.F.A. at Yale University under Joseph Albers. After receiving his M.F.A. in June 1961, Rayen was recruited to teach art at Wellesley that fall, a post he left 42 years later, in 2003, "after sympathetically questioning and training almost two generations of college students, much in the way that he was mentored and motivated at Andover and Yale by Patrick and Maud Morgan, Josef Albers and Si Silliman," according to Jock Reynolds, museum director of the Yale University School of Art, and formerly director of the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy. 

In a brief biography about Rayens just before his retirement from teaching, Reynolds wrote:

The Latin inscribed on the school seal of Phillips Academy, Andover [Finis origine pendet, or “the end depends on the beginning”]—is an appropriate one to contemplate when considering the many ways that James Wilson Rayen's creative life has been entwined, for some 50-odd years, with Andover, Yale University, and Wellesley College. All three are venerable American educational institutions that have long sustained a commitment to teaching the visual arts through their highly regarded faculties and renowned teaching museums. The Andover motto is a truism Rayen has surely conjured up on occasion when recalling the pivotal teachers, courses, and artworks that comprised his youthful exposure to art at Andover, and his purposeful development as a young artist at Yale. Such "beginnings," Rayen has acknowledged, provided the foundation upon which he has built and sustained an inspired 41-year career as a painter and faculty member in Wellesley's studio arts program.