Seascapes on display at train station

‘Brushstrokes and Bathers,’ a watercolor by Barbara Messenger, captures seashore activity with few brushstrokes.

An exhibit of watercolors by borough resident Barbara Messenger, at the Glen Ridge train station, is a lovely display of 16 seascapes in muted tones, some with swaths of untouched paper.

A number of the compositions are dominating sandscapes dividing the sea and horizon from a house or two and trees.

In “Island Picnic, N. Falmouth,” there are the evocative darkened browns of the sand just lapped and saturated by the sea.

“Mrs. Fisher’s Cove” has one of the few instances in the exhibit of the color red. But here, on the surface of a stone, it sensitively shows the underlying color of a weathered rock wetted by ocean spray and illuminated by the sun. Dark greens and muted blues, with untouched paper for a white sail, conveys serenity in “Sailing into the Cove.”

All the paintings are composed with intelligence allowing the eye to roam and discover. The experience is much like being on the coast oneself as vision travels from distant to near objects. The only thing missing in Messenger’s seascapes is the smell of salt water.

“I have a family history of watercoloring in Maine,” she said. ‘My grandfather sketched and watercolored. I was always drawn to art. As far back as I can remember, my mother was setting up crafts for us in the basement.”

Messenger attended Smith College where, as a studio art major, she took a “ton of art classes.” Nonetheless, she pursued acting after graduation although continued to paint in Nantucket. She currently works in real estate.

“I sit down and paint what’s in front of me,” she said. “I’m not a realist painter; more impressionistic and gestural. I haven’t thought of myself as having a limited palette or muted colors. What I hope to capture is how I feel standing there in nature. In Maine, there’s almost no people. It fills and satisfies me like nothing else. I feel I’m most myself.”

In her painting, “North Falmouth Boating,” Messenger makes good use of the horizon, pressing down low against a community of five anchored boats beneath the only force of nature more encompassing than the sea: the sky. In fact, throughout much of the exhibit’s watercolors, the sky and the sea can be viewed as twins.

“Seagirt Riptide” evokes a Cezanne mountain with its dominant expanse of sand broken by small, gentle brushstrokes conveying the extent of its form. As in other pictures, Messenger uses an expanse of sand to divide houses, symbols of family and community, from the expansive sea reaching for the horizon and the unknown.

“Brushstrokes and Bathers” is just that and barely so. There are two boys, waist-deep in the surf, forming a compositional triangle with a girl in shorts and blouse walking toward the viewer. There is hardly any watercolor on the paper, but Messenger’s shorthand is enough and most rewarding.

Also exhibited were six watercolor and pencil geometric designs by Messenger. These were ignored. After the expansiveness of her geography, the confinement of any geometry was unappealing.