CREATIVE PEAKS: Seasoned Response

By on May 17, 2017

In a new solo show, Pamela Gibson muses on the passage of time.

JACKSON HOLE, WY –“Everything I do is landscape,” said painter Pamela Gibson.

The artist’s abstract encaustic paintings may not always be instantly recognizable as landscapes, but that’s the beauty and mystery of the work. By rendering landscape in abstract expressionistic ways, Gibson invites the viewer to reflect upon actual and metaphorical places.

Gibson’s exhibition of new work opens Friday at The Stable, a relatively new Jackson gallery by Visions West Contemporary of Denver. “Telling Time” includes a year’s worth of intricate paintings, including a series of 50 six- by six-inch pieces that chart the changes in the Tetons over the course of a year.

“They are like words in an essay,” Gibson said of her small paintings. She entitled the series of mini paintings, “Progression.”

“Some pull out an essential element of the landscape, others focus on a small detail. I was responding to changes in color and texture as things change over the course of a year.”

The small paintings were a departure for Gibson, who tends to work big. Using layers of waxy encaustic paint in rich colors, Gibson’s process is subtractive. She paints in layers, then scrapes parts away. Sometimes she adds in three-dimensional elements like scraps of paper or dress patterns. She also uses writing as a pattern element in her paintings, enjoying the effect of flowing cursive words across the painting. These various elements create a kind of collage, yet Gibson’s work is rooted in painting itself, the movement of paint on surface.

Gibson says her work is as much about the materials and techniques she uses, as the themes of landscape and time passing. The horizon line is a formal element, she says, a way of grounding a painting. “You can’t look at landscape without seeing ground and sky,” she said. “Or perhaps infinite air.”

Rather than following the standard rule of thirds that says the horizon line should be two-thirds of the way up the canvas from the bottom, Gibson’s horizons often appear low on the canvas, allowing for huge, sweeping “skies.”

Her canvases are cradle boards, which can support the weight of the many layers of wax paint used in encaustic painting. In a series of four large paintings entitled, “To Every Thing There Is a Season,” Gibson painted the four seasons in Jackson Hole. Summer, fall, and spring are contained on three- by four-foot panels, but winter gets a larger, three- by five-foot panel. “Winter comes and everything looks dead,” Gibson said, “but in fact it is getting ready to bloom.”

Gibson says observing the passage of time is comforting. “Time is really the only thing we have. For me it is spiritual.”

Her close observation of the seasons revealed a hidden truth that the seasons do not progress evenly in their changes day by day. Instead, Gibson said, there are relatively static periods and then bursts of change. She works from photographs she takes to document the changes. “It’s moments,” she said. “I wanted to capture the color of the willows in early May. By the time I got it, that color had already changed.”

A third series of paintings entitled “Time’s Glory” rounds out the exhibit. In these medium-sized paintings Gibson wanted to invoke time’s ability to provide perspective. “I was thinking about the enormity of time,” she said. “Truth comes out in time. When we are in the middle of it, we don’t see it all.”

She made “Time’s Glory” after the presidential election as a response to the unsettled and off-kilter mood of the country. For three paintings, she used a palette of pinks and soft violet, while a fourth painting contains the bright aqua of a mountain lake. Other elements include graphite, written marks, and metallic crackle. “I wanted to make an emotional not a political statement,” she explained.

Whether they end up visible or not, Gibson includes words in all of her paintings. She writes as she goes, using words from the painting’s title and theme. Inspired in part by the calligraphic work of Cy Twombly, Gibson said writing in the painting is a way of incorporating other arts like literature and music into the work.

“Writing becomes a graphic element,” she said. “I like the pattern. Also, it allows me to have a kind of conversation with other artists throughout art history.”

Collectively, Gibson’s paintings offer a visionary meditation on the rise and fall of seasons and the inexorable cycle of life. Some paintings—or sections of paintings—burst with bright colors and gestures, while others are soft, misty, quietly luminous from within. By looking outward to the landscape that surrounds her, Gibson also charts the inner seasonal changes in a human life. “This is my slice of time,” she said.

Gibson is an artist fully present in the larger chapter of human history in which she resides. PJH

Telling Time, 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 19 at The Stable, 130 S. Jackson St.

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About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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