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Hayley Barker
at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

Continuing through June 30, 2011

The rapturous semi-abstracted landscapes in Hayley Barker's "Cathedrals" could hardly be more distinct from her previous body of work, which depicted whimsical monsters, animal/human hybrids, and indeterminate creepy-crawlies. The current works are inspired by the childhood diaries of Opal Whiteley, an amateur naturalist whose writings abounded with mystical descriptions of the natural world. In oil paintings such as "Grayness (Prodrome)" and "The Sun Shines Yellow (Dazzlement)," Barker alternates passages of luscious impasto with smooth palette-knife work and thin application to create a visual drama well-suited to her neo-Impressionist portrayals of gardens, forests, and dappled light.

In "Friends," she shows the sun as viewed from beneath a canopy of flowering tree branches, the paint opulently slathered in an exultant framing device that goes for broke - and absolutely works. Similarly, in "Explores," she shows the viewer a comet-streaked, star-dotted sky through a nocturnal frame of dimpled black paint whose ardent creaminess channels Whiteley's swooning descriptions of nature with a capital "N." The artist is at her strongest working in large format, contrasting foreground and background with painterly abandon and unabashed transcendentalist intent. This is an ambitious show, which, like Terrence Malick's newly released film "The Tree of Life," does not shy away from melodramatic gestures and cosmologic musings.

Charles A. Hartman Fine Art

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