Mark Daly Tyler Davidson, Fountain Square (Looking East on 5th) Cincinnati Oil on Board 16 x 12 inches Signed Lower Left

Mark Daly’s engaging paintings line every wall at Cincinnati Art Galleries, treating of pleasurable aspects of life at the seaside, in New York City, on Nantucket, and points as far away as Venice. The show’s subtitle, “The Musician’s Paintbrush,” refers to Daly’s playing a mean mandolin, sometimes on Fountain Square, but overlooks his ongoing business career. At one time with Procter & Gamble, he now has his own firm. In our era of specialization, it’s refreshing to come across someone who ignores barriers.

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The hanging at Cincinnati Art Galleries wisely mixes up the artist’s various subjects, but the Nantucket paintings can be picked out from a distance as he has caught so exactly the particular light of that island. Daly is good on light; Manhattan is an island, too, but in the deep canons between buildings light is not the same as on green Nantucket. Sanibel Island and the Florida coast, also represented here, are individual as well. Daly’s Venice is a city in the rain, water compounding above and below. “California Coast, Point Lobos,” has heavy grays and a brown foreground in a different light from anything else in the show.

The works are dated on the back, I was told, and all are from the last two to three years but Daly seems to present a time frame of his own making. The Tyler Davidson Fountain in its current location doesn’t lend itself to his interpretation, so he worked from vintage photographs for the several depictions in this show. Another group of works shows Amish life in northern Indiana, again an anomaly in today’s world. The Delta Queen, now permanently docked and made into a hotel in Chattanooga, in Daly’s painting forges up river, gang plank in the lead, as it used to do. His Fifth Avenue, as flag-hung as anything from Childe Hassam, appears to have no building dating later than Hassam’s time.

Before he was a painter Daly was a collector, focused on 19th and early 20th century American art, and he seems not to have left that world. References in his works to artists like Hassam, Edward Potthast, John Henry Twachtman are so clear they become homage rather than borrowings.

Some of Daly’s work is distinguished by strong brush strokes in thick paint, but certain circumstances bring out different approaches. He has developed an effective and beguiling means of showing falling snow that I’ve not seen before. Thread-like white lines form a network across the painting, and presto! a gentle snowfall is underway. Mean winds, biting cold, or wet feet play no part at all in this invocation. “Rainy Day, Tremont Square, Boston” is equally appealing in presenting the good side of bad weather, in nice blocks of grays and whites.

Daly’s strong brush strokes and thick paint appear in an added dimension in one of my favorite paintings in the show: “Nellie (Long Island Scallop Boat) Mystic Seaport.”  The paint is thicker, the strokes broader and curve in a manner not seen elsewhere; texture takes over as the painting’s reason for being. It’s a simple painting, a white boat in profile, low horizon line, blue sky and bluer sea, but that sky and sea and boat are all carried out in strokes that incorporate blues and pinks and bits of red, touches of yellow. In a nice juxtaposition, it hangs next to a Venetian sunset (“Sunset Gondola, Santa Maria della Salute, Venice”), familiar buildings silhouetted against a sky of mingled reds and yellows, gondola in the foreground lagoon, all carried out in the thinnest paint for the smoothest surface seen in the show.

Daly’s work speaks to the good life, observed with visual pleasure. His show may be seen through April 28 at Cincinnati Art Galleries, 225 East Sixth Street in downtown Cincinnati, open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

–Jane Drrell

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