Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mary Page Evans at VCCA Studying the Way Nature Draws

“I learned by going where I have to go,” says Mary Page Evans quoting Theodore Roethke. “I’ve done this my whole life, and this place [VCCA] fits right into that.”

Primarily a landscape painter, Mary Page works directly from nature--en plein air. She clearly revels in capturing those fleeting sensations of what it looks like and feels like to be outside in the natural world, but her work is also a paean to the act of painting. Mary Page paints with great brio imbuing her work with particular visual animation. This is evident in her line that vibrates with energy and the lushly painted passages of pure, animated gesture. She likes to study “the way nature draws. "

Mary Page has been coming to VCCA each spring since 1991. She ‘s been coming long enough to notice that the boxwoods have grown so tall they’re beginning to obstruct the view. She used to love painting the mustard fields behind VCCA, but then “the daggone expressway came through and took them all out. When you paint from nature,” she says. “You never know when you go back if it’s going to be there or not. Developers keep coming in and taking away your landscape.”

Mary Page likes being at VCCA before the leaves come out because the tree trunks and branches are exposed. “They’re so figurative,” she says. “They’re like dancers.”

Largely self-taught Mary Page has taken classes here and there, most notably the Delaware Art Museum and the Corcoran School of Art. She has been very fortunate in a series of stellar and exacting mentors Grace Hartigan, Gene Davis, William Christenberry and Joan Mitchell whose influence is most apparent in Mary Page’s dynamic brush work.

While at VCCA, Mary Page was working on some figurative pieces in addition to the landscapes. There were long views with the Blue Ridge in the distance and a number of studies of the crabapple in front of the office. She also was reworking a large oil painted previously. Much of the work done during this residency was in preparation for her November show in Wilmington “Trees for All Seasons”.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Avy Claire: Finding the Edges

A professional landscape designer and artist, Avy Claire’s paintings, drawings on Mylar, digital photography and installations are all centered on nature. Much of her work is conceptual, dealing with the built environment and man’s interaction with the natural landscape.

While at VCCA, Avy decided to focus on just one thing, painting, and exploring ways to make the paintings more spare. “While here, I’ve been pushing myself to experiment a lot and play a lot and see what happens. I see something I like and I try to understand what is happening that appeals to me. A lot of the work is spontaneous and I’m trying to figure out how do I recreate spontaneity?”

Avy turned her attention to the brushstroke creating simple yet quite power swirls of pigment in hues taken from the world outside her window. With these reductive meditations Avy was trying to figure out how much is enough. This was challenging, requiring not only acceptance of it by herself, but also the confidence to put it out there in the world.

“When I look at the landscape, I imagine what I see, the land forms, the trees, and sky, as the veil or skin.  I’ve always been interested in the energies and the elements behind that skin. In some of these paintings, I feel like I’m pushing these forces up against each other and the most important part of the painting is that edge where they meet."

Avy relishes the point where contrasting things come together, which is the reason she adds matt medium to the acrylic paint to keep her expressive, juicy brushstrokes intentionally dry looking. “I think I’m always interested in the tension between two things that aren’t necessarily in harmony, but when they come together they create a tension that can only exist with two disparate elements.”  

Avy was in residence for five weeks of intensive work, challenging herself towards an original means of expression. “Through the whole course of the time here some days have been brilliant, some days are oh my God…I fall back into things I know. My biggest drive is to see something new. Always.  I’m painting to see something new for myself and when I do something old, it’s like, no, I’ve seen that before. I want to see something new. So it’s been kind of a push, push, push.” Her efforts were clear in the great quantity of visually spare, yet somehow emotionally charged work she produced.