Carol Huffs Lightscapes at Quiet Waters Park
The overwhelming impression is of being invited into the landscape, the lightscape.
by Sonia Linebaugh
When artist Caroline Huff was a child, her painter father made her feel she was good at art. She never had another ambition. Reflecting on her long career, Huff speaks with the same assurance she felt as a child, Painting is what I do. Its my life.
Sometimes when Huff reads poetry, enjoying the way the ideas evolve, she finds a reflection of the way her paintings evolve. Her work begins with an image. Once she starts painting, the color-making takes over.
In poetry, the energy emerges and reemerges in the flow of words, the structure and the composition. The idea is a thread that runs through the poem and shows through the poem. Painting is like that too, Huff explains.
In Huffs paintings, the image is often the meeting place of land and sea: a lone figure sitting by a Greek sea, sun-struck houses crowding a stone walkway to the sea, a Southwest chapel perched atop a cliff over the sea.
In Santorini View, its a young woman in cut-off jeans who perches atop a cliff. Huffs meticulous painting puts us close enough to see the stitches and strings on the girls denim jeans. Close enough to stand beside the girl, peering over her shoulder as though to see through her fresh eyes the stunning vista of land and sea spread below.
The idea that emerges, the thread that runs through the work, is the lone, but not lonely, human breathing in the light, colors and salt air; nourished by the sea.
Other Huff paintings are without figures, yet the overwhelming impression is that the viewer is invited into the landscape, the lightscape. Invited to sit at a seaside table in Mykonos. Invited to push off in a red row boat. Invited to follow a stone walkway to the blue sea. The invitation is composed of the play of light and color.
Light is so powerful. It is the stimulant for color, says Huff. Line is seen against light. Light changes according to the seasons and time of day. We respond to the mood of light. Its the essence of the composition, the element that makes everything else happen.
Huff begins each painting, each lightscape with a wonderful system, totally disorganized. She goes through and through her cache of slides, thousands of them, waiting for something to come forward. It might be a photo she took last week or 18 years ago. She finds this search a pleasure, yet the most grueling part of the creative process.
Once shes chosen a slide or a group of them, Huff projects the image and thinks about what else it needs. A figure may need a different setting, a setting may need a different mood or light.
Once the subject is settled, Huff draws with paint on her canvas. An edge of hair, a bit of color, the edge of a shoulder. A wash of color. Each mark calling for a response elsewhere on the linen. Soon the entire canvas is filled with thin washes of acrylic color.
Slowly, layer by layer, the painting is developed in every area of the canvas, on and on, until, as Matisse said, not one more line, color or shape can add to it.
For the viewer, the ideas evolve slowly, deliciously. Theres the immediate image: recognizable, photo-realistic. The undercurrent of the nourishing waters. The splash of light and color. The meaning like a thread running through the painting and showing through it. Like a poem.
Thats what intrigues Huff. If theres a quality in my work I like, she says, its the poetry of it.
See the poetry of Carolyn Huffs Lightscapes thru September 15 at Quiet Waters Gallery in the park. Find hours and directions in Exhibits.