New works by Audra Weaser (“Sea Level”) and Sarah Williams (“Speed Trap Towns”) are currently on exhibit at George Billis Gallery in Culver City through February 17th, 2018. While Weaser and Williams works seem at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of subject matter and technique, both do an excellent job of illustrating the impact of light or the absence thereof on composition and perspectives.
Weaser’s works are abstract interpretations of nature including watery landscapes, bayous, and forests interplaying with and refracting light. The water seems to shimmer and reflect the sunlight and surrounding vegetation, at times it almost appearing to ripple through the painting. The attached video gives and excellent overview of her painting technique.
Her artistic process begins with charcoal drawings on the canvas based on either childhood memories or more recent images taken from photographs. Weaser grew us in Southern California, so water and its surroundings have been a large influence on her. After the initial drawings, construction of the under painting; the water and/or foliage begins.
Thick layers of paint mixed with a plaster like composite are troweled on one after another building upon the surface of the canvas creating a stratification that will be eroded away later in the process. After the initial under painting is completed an opaque white layer is swathed upon the canvas to clean or erase the work. Finally, a sander is used to “unveil” or excavate the original painting. The challenge is figuring out how much to wear away; how much pressure to apply and when to stop. Too much abrasion and the painting disappears; too little and enjoy the white out.
The paintings help Weaser find her inner balance or sea level as she phrases it. As you stare at the works a focal point quickly emerges – a balance between vertical and horizontal that helps establish a landscape. While clearly there is a lot of skill and expertise developed over many years to perfect her craft there remains an element of randomness and intentional accidents that really make it special. Just like the fractal geometry that exists in nature – it’s the unpredictability that makes the work come alive.
Like Weaser, Sarah Williams’ paintings draws upon her memories growing up to shape her work as well. Her small town, Missouri upbringing emerges in the paintings. Although the viewer may have not grown up in the same surroundings as the artist we can relate through our own memories of either our upbringing in a similar community, a cross country road trips or perhaps a recent movie (Three Billboards?).
For me, two paintings instantly hit home. There was a “Skelly” service station just down the block from my home in not so rural Minneapolis. Whenever my brown 1970s Ford LTD station wagon sprung a leak I dropped it off at the Skelly station for repairs (burst radiator, broker heater and finally blown engine (shouldn’t have ignored the oil light!). The Star Lite hotel in “South Mitchell Avenue” also reminded me of the Holiday Inn signs scattered across the Midwest. Approaching those concentric blinking star in star signs from the freeway at night meant we would be splashing in a motel swimming pool the entire next day. The open-air fireworks tent was pretty close to the mark as well – roman candles, sparklers and an array of small explosives for any age buyer is always appropriate (that’s why you have 10 fingers).
Most of her scenes are of isolated building or structures in the darkness of night. William’s illumination is provided via man made exterior or interior sources as opposed to Weaser’s natural light. The surrounding areas are painted darker to remove unnecessary distraction and enhance the focus on the subject matter.
There is a sense of either loneliness or solitude in many of the images. There are no people in the snapshots and no sense of motion either. They are photograph-like paintings taken in the quiet of night that create almost a ghost town like scenes when taken together. From my perspective the images are not so lonely, rather serene and peaceful; stirring up pleasant memories of my childhood.
Other Opportunities: The Water & Wood Exhibit is running through January 27th at RESIN in Hermosa Beach (618 Cypress Avenue, Hermosa Beach). 70 Artist are featured and the show is curated by the Hermosa Beach Artist Collective. Don’t miss it!
1.) Audra Weaser, “Entrancing”, 2017, 68” x 60”, acrylic and mixed media on panel, Photo by Jeff Davis
2.) Audra Weaser, “Ashore”, 54” x 84”, acrylic and mixed media on panel, Photo by Jeff Davis
3.) Sarah Williams, 2017, “South Mitchel Avenue”, 24” x 24”, Oil on Board, Image courtesy of George Billis Gallery
4.) Sarah Williams, 2017, “Skelly”, 18” x 30”, Oil on Board, Image Courtesy of George Billis Gallery
5.) Water & Wood Exhibit in Hermosa Beach, Image courtesy of “HBAC”