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Art: Elizabeth Ann James, Columnist
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Universal Ohio: Recent paintings by Linda Wesner
Marcia Evans Gallery
Linda Wesner's Dance of Light, 2006,
colored pencil on burgundy paper, 22 x 30 in.
Recent Paintings,” an exhibit of Linda Wesner’s works in oil, acrylic, and colored pencil is showing at Marcia Evans Gallery, 8 East Lincoln St., through October 31, 2007. There are 23 works in the exhibit.
Wesner is, possibly, the most proficient colored pencil artist in the United States. As a signature member of the Colored Pencil Society of America, she proudly writes CPSA after her name. In one year, 2005, her work was juried into and won awards in three national shows. Recently she won Best of Show at the “I Can’t Believe It’s Colored Pencil, WOW!” invitational exhibit in Akron. Wesner’s Delaware Crossing, No. 1 and other landscapes achieved an Award of Excellence and were showcased in American Artist Magazine’s January 2007 issue. That, indeed, is high praise.
Delaware Crossing, No. 3 is another work in Wesner’s noted series of Lewis Center landscapes. A faded red-and-white crossing sign and a warning signal center this narrow painting. The venue is pale and dreamy, yet at the same time it includes detail. To the viewer’s right, the big two-story frame house with faded red roof stands empty. The paint used to be fresh white and somebody sat on the porch. That person listened for trains, became familiar with schedules. Perhaps you’ll hear the locomotive whistle. Down the street a section of green garage shows through spindly trees.
Wesner is a genius at using space. She knows how to place a tall house on one side and almost mathematically how to allow light and rural space – faint houses, trees, a single pine, the flatness of highway – to balance the opposite side.
Delaware Crossing, No. 5 includes a picket fence. This is likely the previously mentioned house from a different angle as seen on the viewer’s left. The trees are leafless here, and we can see the remnants of a town. Sunlight is an actor, and the highway runs through the village to Nowhere.
House at Field’s Edge, No. 1 and 2 are gorgeous. Light, shadows, corn stalks, soybeans – no matter. The remnants of a town, the highway.
In a 2006 interview with Jennifer Noblitt from the Olentangy Valley News Wesner said, “To me, Lewis Center is waiting. All these changes are coming. No one is around, and I wanted to capture the stillness and isolation that’s being evolved by development. I really do think buildings have life, a personality. My goal is to capture that.”
These superb pencil paintings are meditations on the familiar. They must be seen to be appreciated. And they’re large enough to ensure that they will attract attention on the walls of spacious suburban homes, corporate offices, and state facilities.
Morning Run on Old State Road, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 in.
Many viewers will remember, or will think they remember, The Playground Tree. It stands on Peach Blow Road in Delaware County. Two nearly bare trees stand tall near the brick schoolhouse with the nailed-shut door. Colors are primary yet subdued. The playground tree is surely the twisty leafless tree in the middle of the yard. And the school and the tree and the crayony sea of grass loom large in context of the frame and are a joy to behold. The soft colors tend toward warm-yet-cool and have a crayon box feel. Wesner is a painstaking master. Again, notice the grass – it’s magical.
Dance of Light presents the artist’s hydrangeas. It’s a work in colored pencil that makes the viewer want to touch these old-time blooms as large as a child’s fist painted against a dark burgundy background. The American Artist article provides much information on Wesner’s technique and is worth a read. Wesner says painting the dark green leaves on the complimentary paper gave it unexpected life. “I had to overcome the dark (burgundy) paper for the light white-and-pink blossoms. I felt like I was fighting the paper even on the dark masses. But, in the end, the delicate petals of the hydrangeas suggested light flickering across the page.”
In Morning Radiance, a single full tree explodes like a rose in full bloom. Wesner’s pencil work resonates with tradition, yet it is never trite or saccharine.
At first glance, I thought Sky Notes had been painted in pastels or possibly oils. Instead, this luscious landscape was created with colored pencil sticks composed in lateral bands, or horizons, of strokes. Sketchily drawn trees and a tiny farmhouse, this landscape bridges the divide between the oil paintings and the colored pencil paintings. Sky Notes also mends the divide between realism and impressionism. The sky is an enticing blue blizzard of fine, fine strokes and pale, pale markings. Sky Notes is one of my favorite works of Wesner’s.
Sycamores in Snow, acrylic on paper, is what it says, and is gorgeous. Sycamore branches in snow, close up, abstracted, in strong white and pale strokes, possibly from a palette knife. They’re now, they’re dancing.
Wesner paints large excellent landscapes; they seem to glow. They’re somewhat realist, yet they manage to dance free. Morning Run on Old State Road is a 30 x 40 inch oil on canvas and it should light up the art sky. Here is a rural Ohio scene gone impressionistic. Wesner is often on the road in the morning, and she has captured that specific light, those lawn shadows, the tiny farmhouse dwarfed by fields, the reflections on the tiny windows. October Monday, an acrylic on canvas 30 x 40 inches, is masterfully painted; the large sagging farmhouse tilts on the hill. This old dwelling may be deserted, or run down, yet, on one side laundry hangs from a line and rugged foliage dances in sunlight. Both paintings have solar power; they glow.
The artist says that as a child on a farm in Central New York she fancied herself a Nancy Drew of local and family history and was always hunting for buried artifacts. On school bus rides she observed the changing landscape and filled her sketchbooks with studies. She received a Kodak Instamatic camera for her tenth birthday and was soon using it as a tool for observation and composition. She later studied at the State University of New York, Oswego, where she earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in art. Due to her husband’s corporate job she has lived in various places and now considers Central Ohio her home.
Linda Wesner is represented by Marcia Evans Gallery as well as galleries in Florida, New Jersey, and New York. Her award winning work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and is included in numerous private and corporate collections.
Wesner’s colored-pencil drawings are spectacular in a quiet way, and nobody else can do what she does with the medium. Her oil and acrylic paintings, although not avante-garde or showy, are dramatic, varied and substantial. Wesner, the total artist, understands the poetic dictum that “The only true universal is the local.” You’re in for a treat!
Visit Linda Wesner's Web site at www.lawesner.com
Marcia Evans Gallery, located at 8 East Lincoln is open 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with later hours during monthly Gallery Hops. Call 614-298-8847 or 740-403-8135.
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