WILKES-BARRE — Patricia McMahon Lacy seemed ready to apologize to penguins everywhere on a recent Friday evening.
The Kingston artist had contributed a watercolor image of adult and baby penguins to a Wyoming Valley Art League exhibit of winter-inspired works, and while bystanders agreed the picture was charming, Lacy regretted the title she’d given the piece: “Clumsily Enjoying Snow.”
“They’re not clumsy,” she said, placing her hand over the name. “They waddle, but they’re keeping their balance.”
Still, most bird lovers — and Lacy is a bird lover; “they’re my muse,” she said — likely would agree penguins appear to move more easily in water than on land, so maybe the Antarctic creatures she’d fashioned weren’t in their favorite spot.
Coincidentally, stepping away from the familiar was part of coordinator Robert Husty’s idea for “Winter Abstractions,” a show of art league members’ work that will be on display at the Circle Centre for the Arts on South Franklin Street through Feb. 8.
“I encouraged people to leave their comfort zone and try other genres,” Husty said. “That’s how you grow as an artist.”
Pointing to several pieces by artist Frank Wengen, of Dallas, Husty said Wengen had perhaps made the most striking departure from his usual style.
“I’m usually very realistic,” said Wengen, reminiscing a bit about his painting of a pig that won “best in show” at last summer’s Fine Arts Fiesta. That image was so true-to-farm-life, art fans marveled over the distinct, bristly hairs on the animal’s hide.
For the “Winter Abstractions” show, Wengren experimented with an abstract style and “painted from memories, drawn from emotion.”
“After the holidays, everything goes dark,” he said, describing the emotions. “All the Christmas lights go down. The nights are longer and the days are shorter. You can feel crowded in by the cold, yet there’s a tranquility there.”
Admiring Wengren’s abstract pieces, art league member Robert Bergstrasser said, “You’re looking at an original. Nobody else is doing what he’s doing.”
“You don’t see that kind of technique. It’s like Hans Hofmann,” Bergstrasser said, comparing Wengen to a 20th century abstract expressionist.
“Oh, you’re making me blush,” Wengen told him.
If you circle around the exhibit — the building, true to its name, has rounded walls — you’ll see winter inspired local artists to create everything from jewelry and haiku poetry to textile art, photography and paintings.
One of Husty’s acrylic paintings, “On Thin Ice,” shows the cracks that might appear under the feet of someone about to fall into very cold water. At first glance, the ice appears to be white, but a closer look reveals hints of many other colors.
“I start with the darkest colors,” Husty said, describing “bright red crimson, deep hunter green, violet and ultramarine blue” as playing a part in his multi-layered work.
“There’s an art to hanging the exhibit, too,” he said, explaining he believed his painting and the work next to it — Allison Maslow’s photo that seemed to suggest a blizzard — complemented each other well.
“This is photography,” he said as he admired Maslow’s piece, “but it’s so painterly, it looks like brush-strokes.”
Maslow, who reached the exhibit’s opening reception on Jan. 19 after a trip to New Jersey, said she’d enjoyed the sight of “snow leading off into the woods” as she drove back along Route 80.
But some artists admit they’re not enthralled by every aspect of winter.
“I don’t necessarily like the temperatures,” Michele Geiser, of Shavertown, said. “I do like the beauty.”
Geiser was driving to work one morning earlier this season when the sight of frost-covered branches made her pull over and shoot photographs, one of which she manipulated so it looks a bit like a globe-shaped ornament with a “candy-wrapper effect” on each side.
Another of her pieces in the show is a photo she captured at Frances Slocum State Park on a day she believes she was one of only three people in the park. “We’d just had a beautiful snowfall and a great frost,” she said. “It was silent. There were no footprints. It was just the perfect atmosphere of winter.”