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Jeffcoat’s latest works are cornerstone of gallery’s ‘Florida Abstracted’ exhibit

By Staff | Feb 16, 2011

Hollis Jeffcoat, standing next to her paintings entitled "Nage V," is showing several of her latest works at Watson MacRae Gallery's current exhibit, called "Florida Abstracted."

Like many artists, Hollis Jeffcoat looks at the world just a little bit differently than the rest of us. Creative sorts always do. And that’s a good thing, especially for admirers of the abstract expressionism genre of paintings.

Several of Jeffcoat’s latest works, created during the summer months, are now being featured at Watson MacRae Gallery on Sanibel, whose exhibition entitled “Florida Abstracted” includes original pieces from the Sanibel resident as well as W. Darby Bannard’s oil stick paintings.

“Often I am emotionally struck by a landscape,” said Jeffcoat, whose most recent series is rich in vibrant colors. “Once I get into my studio, I really start exploring the juxtaposition of colors.”

The first painting she points out, entitled “Storm Over Buck Key,” was inspired while she was sitting at The Green Flash on Captiva. Jeffcoat watched an afternoon thunderstorm approach the islands, took a “mental snapshot” of that image and decided to put paintbrush to canvas to preserve that moment forever.

“I look at the way the light hits the landscape,” she explained, noting that several other pieces of the series were inspired by memories of swimming off the shores of Sanibel as a child. “I remember looking at the wildlife all around me… the sea grasses… and I used to imagine what I might encounter.”

Four of Jeffcoat's pieces hang on a wall at the Watson MacRae Gallery.

Initially a student at Kansas Art Institute, Jeffcoat’s innate talent and abstract sensibility was honed at the New York Studio School, where she studied with some of the great painter/teachers of our time – Philip Guston, Andrew Forge, Nick Carone and afterwards apprenticed with Joan Mitchell for three years in France. Jeffcoat has lived, worked and taught in France, Canada and New York. While her lineage goes back to the New York School, Jeffcoat goes beyond abstract expressionism creating a style that is hers alone.

Jeffcoat’s return to Sanibel from New York ushers in a new body of work inspired by her beloved Florida landscape. The vibrancy of the Florida color and light found in her earlier work returns, but there is maturity to the work that goes beyond making beautiful paintings.

In the current exhibit, twice Jeffcoat features jellyfish — called “Grande Muduse” in French — as she follows a water theme throughout.

“All of these are looking over the water or being in the water,” said Jeffcoat. “It’s kind of an ongoing theme in my paintings that I’m still exploring.”

Known as an extraordinary colorist the work in this exhibit showcases the dexterity of her paint handling that can only be called masterful. The Nage and Grande Meduse paintings best epitomize her virtuosity with brush and paint.

“As I painted this series, it was a very visceral experience,” said Jeffcoat. “I felt like I did as a child swimming underwater through grasses in the Gulf of Mexico and seeing the creatures I might encounter.”

Jeffcoat said that even when she moved away from Southwest Florida for a time, she always retained her passion for the region within herself.

“People told me that I had these Florida colors in my blood,” she said. “I knew I was going to become a painter when I was 5. I’ve always been fascinated with the nature that surrounds me.”

Gallery owner Maureen Watson offered high praise for Jeffcoat’s latest series.

“Look closely at these paintings and see the nuance and layers of color, the direction and size of the brush stroke, the edges and you will learn about Jeffcoat’s incredible technique,” said Watson. “I like to put together artists that holds a particular theme together. Although the subject matter may be completely different, the processes are very complimentary to each other.”

A native Floridian, Jeffcoat has had 19 solo exhibits and been in 35 group exhibitions in the US, Canada and France. Her work is in several New York and Canadian museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Morgan Library and in the Pierre Matisse Collection.

“My art is based on the contact between my sensibility and nature,” she added. “For me, there is no didactic system.”

The “Florida Abstracted” exhibition will run through Saturday, March 5.

Watson MacRae Gallery is located at 2340 Periwinkle Way #B3 in The Village Shops on Sanibel. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For additional details, call 472-3386.