Watson MacRae exhibit takes viewer on a journey through mind and media
“Three Views: Paper, Paint and Wax,” the new exhibit at the Watson MacRae Gallery, features the work of three accomplished artists – Anne Gates Yarnall, Hollis Jeffcoat and Elizabeth Lambert – masters of their craft whose works represent a journey into the realm where mind meets material.
Gallery owner Maureen Watson said that because the three women in the show have reached such a high level of creative expertise, their artistry naturally surpasses technical inhibition, resulting in works that are pure inspiration.
“All three artists have mastered their particular craft so well that it allows them to be free. They all come from an intuitive place when they created this work,” Watson said. “They’re at the top of their craft and this exhibit demonstrates how well they handle their craft. None of this is easy. It’s all very interesting, complex work that is also very accessible to the viewer because of the level of mastery that all three artists have achieved.”
Yarnall makes up the “paper” part of the trio and her works are manifestations that spring from both ends of the mental spectrum – from memories to pure fantasy – constructed out of paper and arranged in ways that make the viewer feel as though they are peering into an another world.
The artist said she began dabbling with paper collage while she was on a trip in the Arctic.
“Once I got into it, I was very fascinated. I had always been a very exacting and super-realistic painter and drawer, and this threw me into a whole new world suddenly and it pushed me into abstraction. That was fascinating to me – the idea that the simpler and more abstract things are, the more universality, energy and strength they have,” Yarnall said.
But there is also a bit of complex subtext in Yarnall’s work.
“Here I was taking these materials of the world I loathe – commercialism and advertising – that I think are destructive to our world and the world of art, and here I was turning them into art. It’s a nice way to recycle waste,” Yarnall said.
During her time in the Arctic, Yarnall found that she was trying desperately to memorize all of the sights and scenes she saw so that she might put them into paper form.
“The pleasure was leaving me, so I decided to just enjoy myself and, sitting in my cabin at 11 at night with these little bits of paper, I just had to trust that whatever was important was going to come up from somewhere, and it just absolutely did. It was an editing down to the essence of mood and color,” Yarnall said.
Jeffcoat – the “paint” – is showing a series of brand new pieces inspired by her childhood memories of Sanibel.
“I started having visions, and I think it was because I came back to the island after being away for such a long time. I started having memories of my childhood spent here, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and what it looks like to be underwater,” Jeffcoat said.
Jeffcoat’s memories merged with her imagination and she let the light – her most vocal muse – lead her into an exploratory underwater fantasy, conscious of both space and time.
The artist is also experimenting with narrative on the canvas.
“‘Mr. Yellowtail’s Journey’ is different because it’s not just about space, but time as well. It felt like the unfolding of a story. It was all such a journey for me,” Jeffcoat said. “I have never painted this way before. Usually, I get a vision of a painting and see it all at once. This painting unfolded like a story. Mr. Yellowtail showed up on the canvas and I followed him around and let him show me what to paint. I took the journey with him, meeting creatures along the way.”
Lambert’s pieces – the “wax” – were done over her most recent winter stay on Sanibel.
She was drawn to wax because of its luminosity.
“My son says, ‘The thing I love about your paintings, mom, is that you can always go somewhere in them.’ You never stop at the door. You just go in. That’s the kind of thing that I saw was really available with this medium.”
Before she discovered wax, Lambert was painting and etching, and she said that her work was becoming too tight and controlled.
“I wanted to use a medium that would make me be more subject to its own demands so that I couldn’t really control it. I wanted to be looser. I love the process, the sweat factor of whether it’s going to work or not and I like the unknown. It suits my work,” Lambert said. “Why I really went to wax was because I wanted to come back in that intuitive sense – to look at the blank canvas and apply some wax to see what it says, see what it thinks.”
When Lambert knows she’s going to begin working, she begins the creative process subconsciously months in advance.
“I cut images out of books and magazines, and, interestingly enough, they never really appear in my work, but they are consolidated into my way of thinking. When that blank page is there, and I’m thinking, ‘Speak to me,’ what comes up are those things I’ve been in touch with for several months,” Lambert said. “I always seem to harken back to symbolism of some kind and pull out things that will send me in a direction.”
Lambert is also extremely influenced by words and, as a poet, some of her pieces are directly influenced by her writings.
“Pieces have a life of their own. I often hear writers talking about how a character takes over a story, and that’s how I feel when I paint. The imagery controls me,” she said.
“Three Views: Paper, Paint and Wax” will run until Friday, April 30.
Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Watson MacRae Gallery is located in the Village Shops, 2340 Periwinkle Way, #B3 on Sanibel.