In much of her professional life, Natalie Hope McDonald is limited by language. As a freelance journalist, she's restricted by words counts, bound by grammatical rules and subject to the seductive powers of clever phrases. She is also, however, a painter, and the canvas is where she explores some of her own stories.
"The painter Gerhard Richter talked about the impossibility of explaining visual art with words, and that if he could there would be no need for the paintings. He would simply write what he wanted to communicate," says McDonald, a Metro contributor. "I feel the same way. Both mediums are about storytelling. The written word just leaves a lot less up to interpretation."
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Opening Friday, McDonald's new show, "Invented Surfaces," features abstract, mixed-media paintings created over the past year. Rich in texture, the large-scale pieces explore themes of love and loss, of memory and its trickery. And while words certainly have their limits, scraps of texts -- including excerpts from her late mother's notebooks -- appear in many of McDonald's pieces, which she refers to as "visual journal entries."
"It's much different -- and for me, much more comfortable -- interpreting death or a memory abstractly than it is to let it all hang out, so to speak," says McDonald. "While my paintings are a measure of everything from grief to resilience, they also have an entirely different meaning to me than they may to anyone else. I guess in the world of endless status updates and tweets, I like to keep at least a few secrets."
Opening reception Friday, 5-9 p.m.
Bluestone Fine Art Gallery
142 N. Second St.
3 more First Friday picks
1. Frankford Avenue Arts Corridor
Fishtown's answer to what was traditionally Old City's night includes a ton of shows (and sales and snacks) along Frankford Ave. On our radar: An installation exploring April Fools' Day at Little Baby's Ice Cream; Little Berlin gallery, which is hosting the usually-mobile Philadelphia Public History Truck; and Fishtown Tavern, making it all interesting and everyone tolerable with $2 beers.
2. Gravy Studio
Consider this your selfie penance: A portrait show features new photographs by local artists including Steve Dyer, Taylor Galloway, Stephanie Price and Gianna Vadino.
Reception 6-10 p.m., 155 Cecil B. Moore Ave., Gravy-Studio.com
3. Space 1026
"Freak Scene East" features original work and prints from 21 doing-it-their-way comic artists.
6 p.m., 1026 Arch St., Space1026.com