Watercolor and acrylic paintings inspired by the Southwest
Rio Grande Sun Arts 07.07.05
‘In Awe Of It All” at Galeria Arriba in Abiquiu
by Bob Eckert
Beth Ferguson loves vivid colors, simple shapes and images of the natural world.
Really! She says so right in her artist’s statement. And she reiterates that love of color and simplicity in her paintings that are now on display at Galeria Arriba, which is upstairs at the Abiquiu Inn. Her one-person show is titled ‘In Awe of it All’.
“I still remember the thrilling and deeply satisfying experience,” she says, “when I first saw the original of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’.”
Although her work doesn’t resemble Van Gogh’s, their approach to painting is similar. Simple and colorful.
The color in her paintings might surprise some who are not familiar with the magical lighting here in northern New Mexico and the West.
“They wouldn’t be surprised,” Ferguson states, “if they were sitting with me now on my portal.” She says of a recent afternoon spent admiring the landscape near her home that has Pedernal as a neighbor.
“Mornings and later afternoons with the sun at an angle are more satisfying. The light intensifies the colors.”
And if you have ever been out walking or driving in the early morning or later afternoon, when the sun is on the horizon, you know just what Ferguson is referring to. The colors are intense. They are more saturated. The colors look almost unreal. And that is the effect you get when you look at Ferguson’s work.
“The colors in light and the colors in the shadows are very different (than at other times during the day) and the contrasts are exciting.”
‘In Awe of it All’ is a superb title for this exhibit because the work shows the awe in which Ferguson holds nature and the area in which she lives. And the viewer has to be in awe of the thoroughness with which Ferguson has chronicled the various scenes that surround her.
Scenes that some might take for granted but that Ferguson cherishes, and her admiration of her subjects come across well in her work.
“In my painting,” she explains, “I’m reaching for depth and expressive quality. I know that I feel connections to ordinary subjects around me that can be expressed in simple shapes and vivid colors. I respond strongly to the ordinariness of subject matter. I want to stay grounded and I want that to show in my work.”
And it does. Her connection with the landscape and simple things within it is very evident.
Ferguson works with watercolor. She studied with Barbara Hodge and was introduced to the work of Emil Nolde and both had a profound effect on her growth as an artist.
“The medium takes on a life of its own...” she says, “I’m interacting with the water, the paper, and the pigments. It’s fun to get a new idea and think ‘I wonder what will happen if I do thus and so.’ So I try it and watch. There is a learning, experimenting dimension that I fund fun and intriguing.”
She mentions that things ‘spring’ from working with watercolors.
“Diffusing patterns of colors mixing on the paper,” she says, “I love wet-in-wet technique,” she confides. “The popping of colors by use of complementaries. Laying different colors next to a main color changes the appearance of the main color...in unpredictable ways.” She’s on a roll here and her explanations come faster, “Shadow-shapes from color. The contrasts between colors in light and colors in shadow are intriguing.”
She recently experienced the difference between how a transparent color and translucent color interact, and she used a translucent blue deliberately in a painting to transform an ordinary into, what she believes, “an extraordinary” image.
She has also been experimenting with yupo paper, which is a synthetic.
“The pigment stays on the top,” she explains, “and just the slightest movement of water, brush, will move it around almost unpredictably.”
The tantalizing effect of the slightest of movement affecting the paint on the paper must make it a very intimate interaction between the artist and her work.
Three or four of the paintings in this current show are on yupo paper.
This show is a wonderful way to experience the landscape around Pedernal. It is also a great chance to see how wonderfully thorough an artist can be when they are captivated by a particular subject. ‘In Awe of it All’ is something akin to a visual diary that Ferguson has kept and it gives you a view into this artist’s world and her appreciation of it.
The work is strong with the subjects being captured in a simple way that shows the areas (and the artist’s) strengths. Her work doesn’t overdo the subject. They, in most cases, show you the essentials, and the essentials are what make New Mexico’s landscape so captivating. In Ferguson’s case, less is certainly more and the show is worth seeing.
Rio Grande Sun Arts 09.01.05
Watercolorist Exhibits Pedernal Area Paintings At the Rio Grande Sun
by Bob Eckert
In the case of Beth Ferguson’s work now on exhibit at the Rio Grande Sun office, that personal relationship between artist and subject is very evident.
As Ferguson was hanging her work, reporters going in and out of the office would stop and comment on how colorful it was, or how she seemed to capture a certain quality of light or a certain aspect to the terrain. It seemed to be the general consensus that the work really brightened up the reception area and that everyone was pleased with the choice of the current artist whose work adorns the walls.
Ferguson obtained a Masters in Social Work and, although she has taken early retirement, she still does organizational consulting with non-profits and their leadership, most of which is now collegial support. She is still involved as an expert witness in a federal court case that deals with health-care in Michigan prisons.
Her attention to detail and a comprehensive approach to her work in that area seems to have carried over into her art. Her studies of the Pedernal area that are shown at the Sun are akin to a to a visual diary – one very complete and introspective.
One that is very personal but one that Ferguson is willing to share with others. And that’s fortunate because it is a work that should be shared.
Ferguson loves the work of Vincent Van Gogh, and although her work doesn’t resemble his, it has an intensity and honesty that one finds in Van Gogh’s pieces.
“In my painting,” Ferguson says, “I’m reaching for the depth and expressive quality that I experience in his (Van Gogh’s) work. I remember the electricity, the astonishment I felt when I saw ‘Starry Night’ as an original – the depth of color, the power of the brush strokes, amplifying the power of the imagery.”
And if you were searching for two words that would help describe Ferguson’s work, a good duo to choose would be ‘depth’ and ‘expressive’.
She takes the area near where she lives and breathes a life into it that is fascinating for the viewer. She documents various times and seasons with a master’s touch.
To some the colors – usually very intense – might seen overblown, but if you have spent any time in the Pedernal area at sunset or sunrise, you will recognize those irresistible and almost indescribable colors that Ferguson uses on her canvases. “They wouldn’t be surprised.” Ferguson says, referring to people seeing her colors. “If they were sitting with me now on my portal.” She continues, talking of a recent afternoon spent admiring the landscape. “Mornings and late afternoons, with the sun at an angle, are more satisfying. The light intensifies the colors. The colors, both in the light and the shadows, are very different (at those times of day), and the contrasts are exciting!”
Ferguson called a recent show she had in Abiquiu ‘In Awe of it All.’ It was a perfect title for her exhibit because the work did show the awe in which Ferguson holds nature and the area in which she lives. And this exhibit of work at the Sun will no doubt have the viewer experiencing a sense of that awe in the thoroughness with which Ferguson has chronicled the various scenes that surround her.
Ferguson works with watercolor. She studied with Barbara Hodge and was introduced to the work of Emil Nolde; both of whom had a profound effect on her growth as an artist.
She finds learning and experimenting essential and exciting in her work.
“The medium takes on a life of its own...” she says. “I’m interacting with the water, the paper, and the pigments. It’s fun to get a new idea and think ‘I wonder what will happen if I do thus and so?’ So I try it and watch. I find this fun and intriguing.”
She mentions that things ‘spring’ from working with watercolors. She admits to loving the ‘wet-in-wet’ technique. She will make color ‘pop’ by using complementaries, saying that laying a different color next to a main color changes the appearance of the main color... sometimes in unpredictable ways. And she find the contrasts between colors and shadow shapes within colors fascinating.
Recently Ferguson experienced the difference between how a transparent color and translucent color interact, and she used a translucent blue deliberately in a painting to transform an ordinary into, what she believes, ‘an extraordinary’ image.
She has also been experimenting recently with a synthetic paper called ‘yupo’. The pigment stays on top and, as she explains, “Just the slightest movement of water, brush, will move it around almost unpredictably.” And that unpredictability of this new paper interests her, no doubt, like the unpredictability of the landscape. Making her painting a much more interesting endeavor because there are always those surprises that await the artist. Possibly something akin to a relationship, which Ferguson is going through with this landscape around her home. In a growing relationship, one should be surprised by new things, they keep the relationship lively, and, with simple things such as trying a new paper such as the yupo, she is infusing a new excitement into that relationship. Creating a new intimacy to keep her excitement alive and feeling new. Something that is essential in the arts.
Scenes that one might take for granted are for Ferguson, ones that she cherishes. And her admiration of her subjects, in all their ordinariness and simplicity, come across well in her work. Her connection and love of the landscape and simple things within it are very evident.
“In my painting,” she explains, “I’m reaching for that depth and expressive quality. I know that I feel connections to ordinary subjects around me that can be expressed in simple shapes and vivid colors. I respond strongly to the ordinariness of subject matter. I want to stay grounded and I want that to show in my work.”
This exhibition of Ferguson’s paintings is a wonderful way to experience the landscape around Pedernal. It will inspire you to look closer at the simple things around us here in Northern New Mexico, things that we might take for granted – but shouldn’t.
“Compared with my perception of the mid-west,” where Ferguson came from, “these views are vivid. Not the placid weathered rolling hills and drab colors of the mid-west.”
Ferguson captures the elemental quality of the landscape which is so appealing. It is one of the reasons this area has attracted so many artists over the years. It is like you get to see the surface but also are awarded the rare opportunity to see the skeleton of the earth. She captures the open rawness of the geological ages, which are so evident here. Her subjects are not overstated, which helps emphasize the simplicity that she admires in this area, and her colors are vivid, saturated and intense.
“I see areas of color that I approximate from my palette,” Ferguson explains excitedly. “I guess I add my response to the setting, the color, the geology, the history. And at that point the colors and their relationships take over, and I’m no longer even trying to paint a depiction of a particular landscape – rather to capture the excitement I experienced when I decided to paint that particular view.”
Stop by the Sun office and experience some of that excitement Ferguson has put into her paintings