By Will Broaddus
---- — There’s so much art to see on the North Shore this month, you could spend the rest of January looking at paintings, photography and works in a variety of other media.
They include the fiber art of Michele Bonner at the Marblehead Arts Association, in an annual exhibit of new members, which this year number 32.
Bonner works at Seed Stitch Fine Yarn in Salem, but she doesn’t knit sweaters or mittens.
“I don’t knit garments, because it doesn’t intrigue me,” she said. “Some of this I just make up as I go.”
“Coralesque” and “Tar Jelly,” the two pieces Bonner is showing, are fiber versions of underwater creatures that will make visitors feel they are snorkeling through the gallery.
Tar jelly is a fungus, which the artist thinks are “amazing-looking creatures” she evoked using felted wool and rubber.
Bonner also creates assemblages from discarded objects like wooden spools or clothing labels and found some of the material in “Tar Jelly” at a work site.
“I happened to be at Habitat for Humanity and found a spool of rubber you use to wedge in your screen windows,” she said. “I like the idea that it’s something someone would throw out, but wouldn’t see. I like to find a new way to see it, find its value.”
Bonner joined the association with her husband, John, who has three paintings in the show, representing two sides of his work.
He paints houses that are usually set within a distant horizon, but are also embraced by sunlight playing on their roofs and windows and on surrounding trees, streets and buildings.
There are no human figures in Bonner’s house paintings, but a second set of his works are filled with people, usually crossing a street or sitting on a train.
Because they are strangers — to the artist and each other — these people express the same mixture of distance and warmth that can be found in Bonner’s house scenes.
The latter works, which are more recent, are created from sketches Bonner made while traveling by train or waiting in a station.
“The paintings of people allows me a lot of freedom in my brushwork,” he said. “Painting strangers, because I don’t have to get a likeness exact, allowed me to be free and experimental.”
The Marblehead exhibit also features several photographers, such as Pamela Joye of Salem, and 10 new crafters, including Sun Levine of Salem.
In a solo show at ArcWorks Community Art Center in Peabody, paintings by Kevin Kusiolek present buildings in urban settings that, as in Bonner’s paintings, are unpeopled.
“It puts emphasis on the architecture of the building,” Kusiolek said.
But he also “allow(s) the brush marks to speak for themselves,” in drips and marks that accent the surface of the canvas, while imparting motion to the scene.
“The brushwork is an impression of people, it evokes a sense of movement,” Kusiolek said.
This more “painterly” style evolved, he said, with encouragement from his professors at Towson University in Maryland.
Kusiolek recently moved to Salem, and his show, his second at the gallery, will feature more paintings of North Shore settings than in the past.
They are also set at different times of day, finding drama in man-made illumination as often as natural light.
Kusiolek’s will be the last solo exhibit at ArcWorks, where group shows will be featured in the future, said Merritt Kirkpatrick, the center’s director.
Another solo exhibit, at the Cloister Gallery in St. Andrews Church in Marblehead, features photography by Alyce Underhill.
“They’re not really what people expect from photography,” said Underhill, who has roughly 25 works in her exhibit.
Starting with original photographs, Underhill may paint them, make a composite with other photographs, or filter their colors through a software program called Color Efex Pro.
“I like to create images that are not photographs, and not paintings, but create a new interesting world for people to look at,” she said. “Someone who saw my work at Firehouse said, ‘Who thinks like that?’ and I liked that.”
The Swampscott Art Association is currently holding two group shows, at the Gallery at Grosvenor Park in Salem and at Marblehead Public Library.
“The difference between the exhibits,” said Nancy Ferguson, a Marblehead artist who coordinates shows for the Grosvenor Gallery, “is that one is a retrospective — at the library — while this is new, judged work, their latest work, at Grosvenor Park.”
The Swampscott association has more than 70 members, Ferguson said, 25 of whom are exhibiting two works apiece at Grosvenor.
“What is interesting is the breadth of expression here,” Ferguson said. “There is absolute abstraction, as well as representation, with some very fine drawing and beautiful photography.
“All media are represented: watercolor, oils and acrylic,” she said, “and also wax encaustic works. There’s even a wonderful, three-dimensional clown head, made of paper and cardboard and maybe wool.”
Sarah Johnson, who is guest curating at The Gallery at Porter Mill in Beverly, has paired two artists who work with found objects.
“Brian Thomas works from home in Salem,” Johnson said, “creating assemblage art with found objects and different materials he finds — he’s a big walker, he goes on hikes.
“He rearranges these things in orderly, very time-consuming fashion,” she said.
This is Thomas’ second show in the past year, after taking several years away from working on art, Johnson said.
Sarah Rutherford, who is from Rochester, N.Y., also “collects treasures, anything with character that sticks out to her,” Johnson said. “It’s like she’s painting with a nail gun and hammer. The overall experience lends itself to these little worlds she creates.”
In Beverly, Rutherford has assembled items with maternal connections, including wedding attire, and 25 family photos submitted by members of the public.
“The theme is taking a look at her grandmother, images of grandmothers and elder women in our families,” Johnson said.
If you go Marblehead Arts Association New Member Exhibit, on display until Jan. 27, 8 Hooper St., Marblehead. 781-631-2608, www.marbleheadarts.org. "Night and Day," paintings by Keven Kusiolek, on display until Feb. 8, ArcWorks Community Art Center, 22 Foster St., Peabody. 978-531-7146, www.arcworksart.org. "Reflections on a World," images by Alyce Underhill, on display until Jan. 30 at the Cloister Gallery, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 136 Lafayette St., Marblehead. 781-631-4951, www.standrewsmhd.org/cloistergallery.html. Swampscott Arts Association Winter Show, on display until Jan. 31, Grosvenor Park Gallery, Grosvenor Park Nursing Center, 7 Loring Hills Ave., Vinnin Square, Salem. 978-741-5700. "Retrospective," Swampscott Art Association at the Virginia Carten Gallery, on display until Jan. 29, Abbot Public Library, 235 Pleasant St., Marblehead. Opening reception Saturday, Jan. 12, 2 to 4 p.m. 781-631-1480, www.abbotlibrary.org. "Reconstructed: My Hands, Our History," assemblage and installation work by Brian Thomas and Sarah Rutherford, on exhibit until Jan. 27. At Gallery at Porter Mill, 95 Rantoul St., Beverly. 802-999-5506, studiosatportermill.blogspot.com.