Dream state: Laura Von Rosks The Middle . .
100, through Jan. 23
There’s no question about the revered place of the landscape
in the history of local art. Nature has long been the region’s
most popular muse, inspiring masses of artists to do earnest
studies of her forms, aiming to replicate, to re-create her
majesty. It’s an honorable pursuit, to be sure. But some artists
aren’t happy to re-create something, and are thus moved
to break down and reappropriate forms in service of a new
beauty or a new meaning. Laura Von Rosk is this kind of artist.
In her 13 new paintings, currently on view at Gallery 100
in Saratoga Springs, Von Rosk adopts the landscape as a language,
conveying through it something more universal and more personal
than the representation of a specific place. She conflates
geographical elements from her memory to create places that
don’t already exist in the physical world—an emotional topography
of sorts. She combines forms the way a poet combines words,
transmuting their meaning through context, eschewing narrative
in favor of presence.
Through her intimately scaled surreal landscapes, Von Rosk
gives us small glimpses into a psychic world that is both
fanciful and dark. Her palette is an intense, stylized version
of local color, rendering fields of vivid emeralds and ambers,
luminous cerulean and cobalt skies, and indigo shadows on
fallen snow. The crisply painted hillsides, valleys, trees
and sky seem to be constructed of a smooth homogenous material—not
the complex texture of actual landscape, but some shinier,
dreamier matter. The effect is unearthly, fantastical.
These paintings, however, are not simply reflections on their
own strange beauty. Von Rosk goes beyond the whimsy and light
that first greets the viewer in creating what she refers to
as “necessary places.” These places, she notes in her artist
statement, are sometimes safe and other times dangerous. Indeed,
it is the dark places that pull you in—the rhythmic shadows
in a copse of trees, the dips and crevices of the land forms,
the far-off places that define the visual depth (and emotional
complexity) of this work.
Yet even as you are beckoned down the tree-lined paths, over
the smooth hillsides and into the shadows, you are halted.
These places are complete and self-contained, able to exist
only in this state of ceremonial stillness and subtle tension.
Their stillness lies in the symmetry of their compositions
and in the tidy patterns of their forms. But the delicate
order and completeness of the images leave no passage in.
The glassy surface is a veil, a shiny barrier between you
and the dreamy landscape. It absorbs your depth-seeking gaze
and diffuses it across the surface, reminding you that you
can’t really go there. To inhabit the space would upset its
careful balance, mar its surface, and undermine its very structure.
Ultimately, the tension hangs between the artist’s invitation
to enter her private world, and the measures taken to keep
us out. Von Rosk has something to say, and something to protect.
The images of her personal language are all at once beautiful
and eerie, inviting and withholding, reverent and longing.
On exhibit at Gallery 100, along with Von Rosk’s paintings,
is work by Clarence King, Virginia McNeice, James L. McElhinney,
Robert Moylan and Harry Orlyk.