Opening reception: Saturday 8 October, 3pm-6pm
The new paintings created by Phoebe Adams are extraordinary on many levels. Aside from being her first cohesive series of paintings on paper laid on wood panel and canvas—at this scale and three years in the making—the imagery and underlying premise is a poignant reminder of our fragile landscapes with limited time to preserve them. The artist has created in this series of artworks a call to action to save the planet by paying attention to our environment. More important, humankind must take responsibility and curtail current consumption levels and historic activities that adversely impact the planet and ecosystems at an alarming rate and in irreversible ways.
Adams’s studio practice started shifting from her highly collected bronze and mixed media sculptures to the two-dimensional picture plane in the late 1990s and has continued as her primary focus ever since. While the exhibition includes a few paintings on canvas, her preference was, and remains, working on heavy and hand-crafted papers rather than canvas. She also prefers utilizing a support made of a material with more structure and depth, something akin to a medium used in sculpture. Hence, her choice of paper laid on wood panel for the debut of this important series. The wood panels are mounted on a rectangular platform that is 3-inches deep and recessed 3-inches inside the outer edge of the panel, with the entire backside of each painted with a range of solid colors such that the paintings are floating off the wall and surrounded by a back reflection. The combination of being afloat and the halo effect makes them more dimensional and object-like, thus, distinct from a conventional canvas support on stretcher bars.
Like most of Adams’s artwork, the subject matter is rooted in nature, specifically, particular places meaningful to the artist and full of memories. Adams has never been bound by the need for literal depiction nor accuracy in picturing any locale. Instead, she relies on memory and Imagination to think through the various scenarios and possible outcomes. This newest body of work does just that, each painting filled with organic imagery of forests, fields, rivers, ponds, and celestial skies. The vivid and bold color palettes create powerful compositions and combined with each painting standing proud off the wall surrounded by a halo effect makes each work seem larger than their actual size of 30 x 40 inches in a horizontal format, commanding attention and pulling the viewer closer to examine.
The artist focuses on experiencing the beauty, wonder and serenity of nature and landscapes in addition to the powerful emotions from those engagements. Hence, her paintings are abstractions, pulling from reality, recollection, and fantasy in a construct that is unique to Adams as well as each viewer. This allows the artist to incorporate and utilize non-representational shapes, unexpected geometric forms, and unconventional, almost neon, color palettes to achieve compositional impact and resonance with diverse viewers and provide multiple points of entry into each artwork.
Viewer engagement is core and why Adams is a master of producing and selecting paintings that both adhere to her central message and have the most powerful and compelling imagery. This is where the paintings get even more interesting with internal tensions and contrasts that she composes within each painting and across a body of work. The imagery in this new series includes lush, idyllic, and majestic landscapes, forests, rivers, and skies that are still in a recognizable state, such as Dream of Water and Land and Precious Trees. Then, the scenes change, ranging from forests and fields depleted and forever harmed from human activity, unstable climate, and extended drought to the opposite extreme with damaged ecosystems from unprecedented storms, ravaging floods, and rising coastlines. The most compelling examples being: What We Bring to the Forest (2021), What Change Brings (2021), What is carried Away (2021), and We Are The Asteroid (2022).
The ten paintings in the current exhibition, Nomad Walking, demonstrate Adams’s mastery of painting, love of nature and special places as well as understanding how to communicate with people. Her imagery gets inside the viewer like a song verse or refrain that you cannot get out of your head, one that brings back memories. Her desire is to make the viewer fall in love with the land and nature all over again by showing the potential dark side of what humankind will lose if we do not act now. Her vast experience in art making, gardening, and observing nature by living part of the year on the coast in the east and the rest of the year in the mountainous desert of the Southwest US (and traversing thousands of miles between the two), gives her inspiration and hope. These experiences make the artist’s work more accessible by combining nature-based themes, iconic shapes, and landscapes with elements of non-objective abstraction. This combination creates depth and illusory space as well as tension and discord that make them compelling, thought provoking, and trigger the imagination. Hopefully, they will ignite something in each viewer, to act and renew their hope in humanity and the planet.
About Phoebe Adams:
Phoebe Adams is a sculptor and painter who has spent a lifetime wandering in the paths of the natural sciences, incorporating abstract and representational images from nature into her work. She grew up in New England and has spent much time in the landscapes in New Mexico.
Adams earned a BFA in Sculpture from Philadelphia College of Art now called University of the Arts and received an MFA from SUNY Albany. She also attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Adams has exhibited her work in numerous solo and group shows across the country and in Europe. Her work is in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center, to name a few. She has taught sculpture courses at Tyler Art School, University of the Arts, and was a tenured professor of art at University of Pennsylvania – Kutztown for many years. She has been a Visiting Critic and lectured widely in graduate and undergraduate art programs across the country. Adams has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards; a Pew fellowship in the arts being one. She has been a resident at MacDowell as well the Ucross Foundation.
Maintaining a studio practice in mid-coast Maine, Adams continues reading deeply in the natural sciences. As a keen observer, she finds the threats to our changing landscapes a perilous slope that artists and all must confront.
© Phoebe Adams, Courtesy David Richard Gallery.