Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Idea of Home: Steven Walker and Isabel Bigelow

In some ways, spring and summer are about adventure.  Autumn, especially late autumn, heading into winter, is about coming home.  Home may be the place from which you started.  Or it may be the place you’ve found for yourself after years of searching.

I have to admit that, as long as I can remember, my idea of home is about the place itself… about the land and the landscape.  That may seem obvious.  But it is my experience and memory of home that continually bring me joy and solace, instill wonder and pride and remind me to be conscientious of nature and community.

Steven Walker and Isabel Bigelow are two artists who capture mysterious beauty and comforting nostalgia in their landscapes.
Cooper Farm by Steven Walker
Bowing Linden by Isabel Bigelow
Home Stretch (1 and 2) by Steven Walker
Falling Green by Isabel Bigelow

They share a lot in common.  Although they now live elsewhere, they both grew up in Virginia and visit regularly.  They both work in oil, mainly depicting natural landscapes.  And they seem to be influenced by Japanese woodblock prints and textiles and turn-of-the-20th-century American artists who were followers of James McNeill Whistler.
Nantucket by Abbott Handerson Thayer
Daybreak by Dwight William Tryon

Their paintings are carefully, beautifully executed.  And they layer paint over paint (and gesso I think) to create enticingly tactile works.  The backgrounds could be watered silk, velvet, even batik.  Images that may seem somewhat flat or graphic here, such as Steven’s buildings or Isabel’s tree branches, are incredibly complex and compelling in person.  They are stunning from across the room.  And then literally draw you in.
Beloved by Steven Walker
American Elm by Isabel Bigelow
Steven, with a background in illustration, is perhaps more traditional, especially in his choice of subjects.  His paintings are often intimately-sized, some as small as 8” x 10”.  But they feel so much larger, with broad stretches of sky or turf that hint at the world beyond.
A Silver Lining by Steven Walker

Afternoon Teatime by Steven Walker

Isabel’s paintings, usually on panel or paper, are much larger.  But then she hones her subject to a silhouette, to its essence, and somehow makes it exponentially grander.  Are these islands in the ocean or just stones in a stream?
Red Islands by Isabel Bigelow
Tree (Summer) by Isabel Bigelow
Last week, my friend Meridith and I visited exhibits by Steven and Isabel in Richmond.  Interestingly, it was three years ago, almost to the day, when we first experienced their works.  And our recent viewing just confirmed how much we love these paintings… for their fineness and familiarity.

Days to Remember: New Works by Steven Walker at the Glave Kocen Gallery closed Saturday, but you can still purchase paintings from the exhibit.  Steven is also represented by the Sharon Weiss Gallery in Columbus, Ohio and the B. Deemer Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky.  His works are very affordable.
First Thing in the Morning by Steven Walker
New Work by Isabel Bigelow at the Reynolds Gallery will be on display until Christmas.  Isabel is also represented by the Sears Peyton Gallery in New York.  Both galleries usually maintain a selection of her monotypes and works on paper as well as her large paintings.
Stream by Isabel Bigelow
The Glave Kocen and Reynolds Galleries are within blocks of one another on West Main Street in Richmond, Virginia.

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