Photographer Laura McPhee is noted for her stunning large-scale landscapes and portraits of the people who live and work in them. She is currently working in the desert west of the United States where she is chronicling visual stories about time, both geologic and human. A serpentine river cuts deep incisions in the land over ages. A gold mine on the edge of the Black Rock Desert has the earth slashed open and its ruddy interior revealed. A still-life found at the edge of an alkali flat reveals intricate details of daily life—a tiny plastic toy among shards of glass and rust, a penny, machine parts, and desert varnished tin cans. All contemplate the unintended consequences of humanity’s attempts to control and manage nature and how we use the earth and to what ends. A meditation on our material lives, the images depict our paradoxical approaches as we at once protect, alter, and extract from the land.
Alyssa Monks is blurring the line between abstraction and realism by layering different spaces and moments in her paintings. She has flipped background and foreground using semi-transparent filters of glass, vinyl, steam, and water over shallow spaces in her 10-year long water series. Today, she is imposing a transparent landscape of infinite space over evocative subjects.
The tension in her paintings is sustained by the composition and also by the surface quality itself. Each brushstroke is thickly applied oil paint, like a fossil recording every gesture and decision, expressing the energetic and empathic experience of the handmade object. “I strive to create a moment in a painting where the viewer can see or feel themselves, identify with the subject, even be the subject, connect with it as though it is about them, personally.”
Squeak Carnwath draws upon the philosophical and mundane experiences of daily life in her paintings and prints, which can be identified by lush fields of color combined with text, patterns, and identifiable images. She has received numerous awards including from San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, two Individual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Award for Individual Artists from the Flintridge Foundation. Carnwath is Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ed Musante captures the soul of the solitary animal. His primary subject is the bird, which he paints with exquisite detail. They are painted on cigar boxes and cigar box lids that make reference to another time and place.
Often Musante’s subjects are floating in an undefined space or on a field of color. Interested in surface and texture, his works offer depth and beautifully painted surfaces. His manner of isolating his subjects, be they animals, birds or people, is reminiscent of Morris Graves’ approach to making the subject an icon.