Continuing though August 31, 2013
Louisa McElwain, who died unexpectedly in February, had a highly recognizable painting style. On her rural New Mexico ranch, she gardened and raised animals — and spent much of her time painting en plein air. McElwains’ approach is characterized by densely applied paint that nevertheless achieves a singularly creamy, luminous quality.
This retrospective of her work covers a broad swath of McElwain’s artistic career. It stylistically varied little over the decades. "Dark Arroyo" (1990) is a testament to McElwain’s fascination with the Southwest’s ruddy browns and brilliant blues. In it, McElwain’s impastoed, sometimes broodingly thick oil paint application manifests itself in a mesa ridge of flat, intriguingly muted browns, broken up with bushy green plants that act as welcome spots of color.
Elsewhere, this heavy-handed technique results in light-as-air skies streaked with white wisps of clouds, veritably shining with organic luminosity. "Hoodoos and High Clouds" (2006) depicts a blunt rock formation with a shock of effervescent white cloud hovering overhead like some marvelous supernatural apparition. The trees in the painting’s foreground occur as intentionally dense and abstracted, creating marvelous contrast to the painting’s clean cloudy center.
This tribute to McElwain’s career is presented thoughtfully, treating her work with sensitivity while maintaining its essential physicality and gravitas.