"Resonance and Memory: The Essence of Landscape" curated by Robert Curcio at Elga Wimmer PCC, New York -- Review by David Gibson

There are a few specific concepts that are made comprehensible through art. These are endemic to the basic process of creative vision, and they tend to construct a bias, or force the flow of a specific passion, so that one can become devoted to one choice over another. In the world of traditional painting, the divergence begins in school, where classes are taught in either body or landscape painting. Or to put it in other terms, a choice between depicting the intimacy of bodies in all their brick and mortar realness or the intimacy of the living environment which envelops us. No painting can put another’s flesh in our hands, or present us with the experience of standing upon a mountaintop or running barefoot through the grass. But art can both depict and enact a quality of perception that allows us to live beyond the banality of the moment. The image of a landscape is what we think about when we hear the word itself. Yet what is attempted, and in many ways achieved by “Resonance and Memory: The Essence of Landscape” is a more comprehensive idea that directs the viewer to recognize how Landscape functions as a cultural influence. 

The translation of nature as both a language of beauty and one of appearances is the active dynamic in Martin Weinstein’s oeuvre. What is not apparent from any printed image is the method by which Weinstein makes something accepted as traditional and straightforward into something ambiguous and diverse. He paints disparate elements of the same composition on separate sheets of acrylic and layers them to create a scene. Full knowledge of his process lends the work a fullness and ambiguity which it could not have if the effect were merely achieved with the use of paint itself. Clearly Weinstein is after an engagement with the allure of perception and not only the magisterial and ecstatic beauty of his settings.  

Gerry Tuten’s paintings resemble random photographs of naturalistic aesthetic moments taken from the raw material of the senses: a section of a frozen stream covered in random twigs, cold water rushing under colder ice, the dark water of gulley and water banks where loamy earth waits to grow; a misted meadow in early morning, the air diffuse with dew and the first glimmers of sunlight, colors of random flowers and birds sifting through a haze of perception; and so forth. There is an allover quality to her paintings that engenders a natural ambivalence: they could be either natural scenes natural or memories or dreams of the same. 

Rebeca Calderon Pittman makes drawings she calls “recombinant” because they are comprised of different sheets lain one over the other. Yet even despite this, they are amorphous and elliptical, with lines leave off abruptly, creating blank areas that perhaps reference the idiosyncrasy of memory. Her titles are vaguely metaphysical, like Empty Freedom, Eternity in an Hour, and Anatomy of Sharing, but with no persons actively depicted to manifest the narrative aspect of their disparate meanings, it’s clear that her scenes are evidence of intimate human history as a landscape of what remains.  

JJ L’Heureux and Sandra Gottlieb each use a singular subject to broaden our immediate attention span and avoid overtures of pleasantness on the part of the viewer. L’Heureux does this by achieving a degree of emotional aplomb in her  subjects, which are overall the myriad types of Penguins to be found on every landscape in or near the South Pole. As an artist focusing exclusively upon a certain species, geographically limited and contextualized by needs of survival but also those of what in any other situation one would call ‘character-building,’ L’Heureux elevates his subjects into a population with its own quirks and graces. L’Heureux presents them as almost fledgling humans, reaching for an interiority that manifests as symbolic if not as biographical. Though no one can speak for the animals themselves, the images can tell a story that is loaded with poignant interpretation. In one image, two Emperor penguins stand in the middle of a snowy expanse that is extremely flat, limited only by a cloudless horizon that holds no sun or clouds. They both stand facing left though photographed in reverse perspective, and one penguin arches its neck backward over its left shoulder, as if to tell the other penguin something important before leaving. They are like two actors on a stage, waiting for something to happen, animated by a slow and urgent gesture.


Sandra Gottlieb’s photographs of waves in the ocean, specifically documented during the month of October, present us with a stage upon which all motion is emotion incarnate, like a canvas upon which the forms are constantly emerging. The lack of a human presence in her images only serves to allow the viewer to place themselves into a relationship with the watery action, which like the painterly dynamic for which it is an obvious stand-in, pulls and pushes us in every direction possible. The strongest impression it gives us is a feeling of overwhelming presence, of what can only be described as sublime; the strength and heaviness of water out in such alien expanses, coupled with its minute and effervescent spray, its rolling waves, crashing only on some shore hundreds of miles distant. There is no way not to feel the very pull of nature’s will and the artist’s service to its overt authority.     

 Kathleen Eliot is a sculptor who works in the difficult but rewarding material of glass. Yet unlike many who work in that material, she does not allow it to end up looking like something decorative or useful. Her glass sculptures resemble monster forms like those in early Sixties Godzilla films, mutant plants, or fractals. There is much background work that goes into these theoretical and formulaic construction of her sculptures, including linguistics, biology, and spirituality. Fragments of her sculptures give hints at symbolism or narrative, like the unopened brackish petals of one, with crimson extruding tongues or beaks; or the ballet shoes upon which another sculpture stands. For the most part they are weblike or chromosomal, presenting forms that hint at the inherent undercurrents or building blocks of reality, bringing the unseen into the visual realm with vibrant color, muscular limbs, and a regard for the visceral strength of form that is never truly abstract as long as we recognize the links between real objects and how they make us feel. 

Gail Watkins makes paintings that are friezelike upon structures that remind one of cenotaphs, scrolls, and cemeteries. Yet they are very much alive. Watkins is fulfilling a desire to marry the ancient with the contemporary. Her pigments come from a market in Egypt where, one may imagine, the same colors have been applied to ritual make-up and to the surfaces of sarcophagi for millennia. They are best described as dense, interwoven layers of paper, pigment, and dyes or inks as applied to media including comic books and featuring imagery such as forgotten languages and scientific markings, and featuring a build up and erosion of materials that seem like stone rather than paint. Watkins seems less interested in facilitating an illusion than of uncovering and re-manifesting an object with loaded meaning to which only she has the key.    

John Lyon Paul’s paintings likewise traffic in a type of mystery that emerges from an engagement with the appearance of motifs usually reserved for an ancient art form preceding the act of applying a brush to a canvas. In his case it is the structured and translucent look of stained glass, which he achieves with acrylic and collage on mylar. The combination of a easily acquired and chromatically dynamic pigment aided by sections of mixed media that accentuate the painted forms without ever interfering with their use atop of surface that is both hard and slick like glass but which also more porous and less heavy or fragile, produces imagery that grows out of the abstract but distracts with its air toward evoking a spiritual fervor. Mosaics that sometimes include an animal loaded with symbol meaning, like a flamingo, X’s which were always used on maps or contracts in place of a real fact or name, and a style of leaving a glossy undercolor that is bronzed or burnt toward the middle and burnished on the edges of tangent shapes gives an incandescence to his works. Other works actually painted on plate glass achieve an effect so similar so as to create instances of aesthetic doubt on the part of the viewer. Everywhere in these paintings is a feeling of suffused rejoicing, as if hymns were sung over every mark as it was being made. The landscapes in these paintings are emotional ones, but no less poignant for not possessing a tree, a room, a bird, or a wave. They possess us in the act of gazing into their endless light.  


Landscape is a strange word because it suggests a different ideal for everyone who hears it; and every landscape is different, just as every inner reasoning is limited not only by the forms that reflect it, but by the logic that reigns in an understanding of its cultural importance. The idea of landscape in art was, until the era of Impressionism, largely symbolic or historical, and it was not until the social and industrial use of landscape changed that art forms followed in stead. At the same time as painters were leaving mythology behind and relying upon the senses and the imminent authority of natural surroundings, various other forces were creating the locomotive and the photograph, which altered the role of there where and the what. Artists today have moved well past the technological accomplishments of their particular era and actively seek inspiration not only from the nature, or what is not human; from the ancient past, or what is not present; and from physics, religion, and chromosomes, or what is not evident to reason or obvious to the senses. They create a resonance for found and excavated forms that lead to new memorable facts, and we are left to unravel and abound in the consequences.