The new 2024 Elisa Contemporary Art exhibit, Uplifting: In Peace and Harmony, opens on January 17th at the Elisa Contemporary Art Gallery in Riverdale NY. The exhibit will run through April 3, 2024.

The exhibit is focused on artwork with a joyful and uplifting energy. It includes the Candy and Toy Mandala limited edition photographs by Atlanta artist, Paula Brett, a series of gouache paintings with stacked ovoid shapes by Boston artist, Nancy Simonds aimed at creating a sense of calm, and an eco-conscious mixed media cloudscape by Virginia artist, Michelle Gagliano. The exhibit also includes a Waterman Palm tree series by California artist, Ferdinanda Florence, and upward-looking tree photographs by Connecticut artist, Nancy C. Woodward.

Each artist has a positive intent upon the development of each artwork. The limited edition photographs by Paula Brett are Mandalas made from pieces of Candy, Jewels, Toy Cars, or other favorites. According to Brett,

The mandala symbolizes the law of the universe and since man is also a microcosm of the universe, many cultures believe that the mandala also symbolizes the human soul. Mandalas serve as collection points for universal forces. My intention with these mandalas is to arrange everyday sweets and favorite objects into a pattern that becomes sacred, where delicious turns divine, the enticing now exquisite.

In the Ovoid series by Nancy Simonds, “I use different arrangements of shapes and colors to create a feeling of transcendent order. These images are anti-chaos. All strive for a connection to a moment for resolution and calm.”

In the summer of 2018, Gagliano eliminated all toxic materials from her practice, introducing instead ground pigments, oils, and solvents based on nuts lavender, and handmade gessoes. It is not lost on her that this replicates what Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and other Masters used in their time. Her featured cloudscape is part of this series.

The Waterman Palms series by Ferdinanda Florence is based on her feelings when looking at the Palm Trees in California, “Palms strike me as both delightful and ridiculous. The palms along Waterman Blvd seem like misfits, plants from a different world, put down in artificial rows to play the role of “iconic California tree.” I admire these palms, these wonky icons, as they are playing an absurd role splendidly.”

According to photographer, Nancy C. Woodward,

I photograph all things magical that I come upon in the natural world. I catch a glimpse of a story hidden in the architecture of a tree and begin working with my camera. Bringing my images into the digital darkroom provides the tools to coax out even the faintest of shadows and ethereal landscapes. I experiment with different color palettes and papers to bring new realms into view that my mind’s eye joyfully recognizes.

Paula Brett

From color-infused paintings to video self-portraits, Paula Brett’s broad body of work incorporates various combinations of media dealing with ideas such as created identity, coincidence, ritual, and transitory spaces. She has exhibited work in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Budapest, Hungary; and Timisoara, Romania.

Paula holds a BS in Art Education from the University of Georgia and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Media from Columbia College Chicago. She currently resides in Roswell, Georgia where she maintains a studio.

Ferdinanda Florence

Ferdinanda Florence was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Arlington, VA. She received a degree in art history and studio art at The American University in 1994 and has continued to pursue a successful professional life as a scholar, teacher, and practicing artist. She earned her Master’s degree in art history at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1998.

A second-generation Armenian-America, Ferdinanda has explored in her research the role of place in artistic expression. Her Master’s thesis detailed the link between Armenian religious rituals and church architecture. In her travel to sites in France, Italy, and Germany, she has researched the symbolism of doorway and floor decoration in Romanesque buildings. In her artwork, she uses industrial sites to explore issues of place on a more personal level.

Ferdinanda’s exhibitions reflect her varied interests and concerns. Her work has been exhibited and collected throughout the US.

Michelle Gagliano

Born in upstate New York, Michelle Gagliano often recalls the farm on which she was raised and to which she credits her admiration of the natural world.

Gagliano’s formal art training is extensive, with various academic environments exposing the artist to a cadre of sophisticated teachers, peers, and practices. She began her undergraduate education at the University of Texas Austin before transferring to the University of Texas Denton to study with the famed painter and teacher Vernon Fisher. Gagliano then completed her Bachelor of Arts degree from Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire, graduating summa cum laude with a major in painting and a minor in art history.

Almost two decades later, Gagliano once again turned to an academic setting to augment her practice and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from American University in Washington, D.C. Gagliano has permeated the American art scene with extensive solo exhibitions and curated group shows throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Gagliano’s accolades are extensive, including the coveted Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship and innovative, collaborative projects with symphonic musicians and published authors. Her works continue to be curated into major private and corporate collections, both within the United States and abroad.

Nancy Simonds

According to Boston Artist, Nancy Simonds,

In painting each piece there is an experience of exhilaration and renewal. In each painting I stack and pile simple shapes, placing then sizing and creating visual relationships that build to larger rhythms....In my OVOID series, I enjoy the play of organic shapes against the white of the background creating tension as the ovals touch or separate in varying degrees. These images reflect velvety textures such as moss as well as disparate edges, sizes, and patterns coexisting in nature. Each shape is drawn and carved out by the edge of the brush. I use gouache paint on Reeves printmaking paper; I blot and dab myriad hues to create complex and delicate surfaces. It is the thrill of potential in each new piece that keeps me exploring in the studio.”

Nancy Simonds, a graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Smith College, has been exhibiting her work since 1978 in solo and group shows throughout the US. Her work is in public and private collections.

Nancy C. Woodward

Nancy C. Woodward is an award-winning photographic and mixed-media artist. Her shadow portraits, colorful trees, and ethereal landscapes depict unique views of the natural world. Nancy photographs moments when the natural world appears changed.

Through experimenting with different color palettes, papers, fibers, mediums, and surfaces, she brings new realms into view. Nancy has a BA in Psychology from Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire. She studied photography, encaustic painting, and digital editing at The Silvermine School of Art in New Canaan, Connecticut, and has studied privately with photographer Sandi Haber Fifield and encaustic artists, Leslie Giuliani and Nash Hyon.

Her work is collected by individuals and private and public institutions, including a solo installation at Montefiore Hospital in Elmsford NY.