From Nature - Views of the West
By Marcy Stamper

What artists derive “from nature” is, of course, as different as the artists themselves. In Confluence Gallery’s new exhibit, “From Nature: The Art of Allison Collins, Don McIvor and Kim Matthews Wheaton,” views of the West – of the wheat fields, undulating hillsides and gulches of eastern Washington and the ancient petroglyphs of the Southwest – the artists extract an intimacy from both the land and the marks humans have left on it.

All the art in the show – which opens Saturday (Aug. 4) – springs from intentional explorations and the three artists’ favorite environments. Driving around to find a scene that catches her eye, Matthews Wheaton will pull over and do a quick oil study, but the final painting is only loosely based on a particular spot.

“It’s the idea I love – I really am drawn to interesting shadow shapes and to putting different colors together,” she said.

“My work is about landscape, place, color, texture – and the paint itself,” said Collins. “The issues in abstraction are really compelling to me. It’s a structure that lets me explore elements like line and color.”

Both Collins and Matthews Wheaton are attracted to planted fields for their patterns and the way the crops emphasize the contours of the terrain.

“I use cultivated fields to help me delineate the rolling sweep of the land,” said Collins. The paint is thick and layered, enabling Collins to scratch texture and contour into the painting.

Matthews Wheaton gravitates to the stripes of agriculture and can create a whole series of paintings from one hillside. “What I love about the landscape here,” she said, “is the horizon and being able to see so far in the distance. I love the emptiness of it.”

In fact, it is the land – far more than sky – that both artists emphasize in their oil paintings. The occasional tree or barn punctuates one of Matthews Wheaton’s compositions, but most of her canvases celebrate the expansive fields in a muted, filtered light.

Collins has also recently been inspired by rag rugs she makes from discarded prom dresses and tablecloths. Braiding rugs, which she finds “mindless, repetitive and blissful,” is a way of unwinding between art exhibits, but Collins finds the abstraction of the rugs has been subtly working its way into her paintings.

Don McIvorMcIvor has a long-standing fascination with the desert Southwest and the remnants of the native cultures there. He has spent years exploring the area and photographing the petroglyphs and pictographs of human and animal figures.

In his new series of sculptures, McIvor combined several of his passions. He starts with woodturning but, instead of using the lathe to create a functional vessel, McIvor has adapted the technique to fashion a surface for paintings of petroglyphs, which he carves, burns and dyes into the wood.

The resulting sculptures are multi-dimensional, both physically and conceptually, with concentric wood-turnings, the evocative texture of the bark and wood grain, and the painted human and animal figures. Some pieces are columnar and some are round, and many are veritable slices of trees, framed by the irregular shape of the bark.