Saturday, December 4, 2021

Close to Home

Last night was the opening reception at Red Wing Arts of Close to Home, an exhibit of 52 paintings - 26 in oil, by yours truly, and 26 in watercolor by Andy Evansen. Andy's work is simply amazing, and it was a true joy to do this show with this painter and friend I admire so much.
The show came together over the course of a year, and the work reflects all the seasons of the year in this beautiful corner of the world that we get to call home.

"Hannah and Andy have lived in the rural Midwest their entire lives, giving them a unique appreciation of the simple beauty of a landscape that changes with the seasons in both drastic and subtle ways.  This exhibition was borne out of their desire to share their observations over the course of a year that found all of us closer to home than ever. The paintings document the seasonal shifts in southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin, an area filled with rolling farmlands, bluffs along the Mississippi River covered in deciduous trees, and big skies. Each artist will exhibit 26 paintings, marking the transition from the cold blanket of winter to the melting of spring; the humid greens of summer to the first pops of autumn color; and the ways in which these seasons affect not only the landscape but the people who live here."

Red Wing Depot Gallery
418 Levee Street
Red Wing, MN 55066
Open 12-5pm Monday, Thursday, Friday & Sunday, 9am-5pm Saturday, or by appointment.

 The show will be up until January 10, 2022. If you get the chance, I hope you'll stop in to the gallery to see all the work in person, and you can also view all 52 paintings through the Online Gallery.

 It was really special to see the final results of all the hard work hung on the gallery walls last night, and get the opportunity to share a little about it and have the chance to listen in return to everyone who came out to the opening. In keeping with the times everyone was masked, and it sometimes took a little longer to recognize a face or hear what was being said, but it was so good to be there together.
 Below are my selections for the exhibit, by month.


Snow in the Ravine, 10 x 7" plein air oil on linen/birch

Standing on the shadowed north side of a wooded bluff. The low winter sun couldn’t reach the remnants of an early snow that dusted the fallen leaves here, but its warm light illuminated the neighboring hills across the valley.

In the Midst, 12 x 16" oil on linen/birch

This painting began as a small pencil sketch as evening fell over the frozen fields - with snow on the ground beneath my feet and in the air, as the weather moved in from the west. My eyes traced the curve of the fields, and delighted in the subtle and moody colors of the January landscape.


Cutting a New Path, 30 x 24" oil on linen/birch

I’m always surprised and in awe of the colors of winter, and the brilliance of sun on broken snow. This piece began with a small plein air painting, which I wanted to develop further, and turned into a real challenge as I wrestled with the paint, trying to wrap my mind around the colors and contrasts of the scene – even lugging this piece three-quarters of a mile through deep snow and over barbed wire to the original location to paint on it from life, while the snow was still there to study. I was struck once again with how it is both humbling and inspiring to create something that seeks to echo Creation itself.

Fading Gold, 20 x 24" oil on linen/birch

Seeking to catch that moment of golden light that makes you forget your cold fingers and toes in the wonder of it.

Blanketed, 8 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch

Thin clouds made for softened shadows on the newly-fallen snow this February afternoon. The wind was cold but the day was warm, well above freezing, making the snow soft and sticky on the sloping hillside.
February Snow, 18 x 24" oil on linen/birch

Revisiting this scene because one painting wasn’t enough.


Leftover Snow, 10 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch

Painted on a beautiful March day, with a clear blue sky and warm sunshine. Still, a little snow was to be found in the more protected corners of the pasture, and I loved the combination of color and texture, and the shapes of the disappearing snow patches.

In Between, 6 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch

A return to a place I’d painted just a few weeks prior, when it was still blanketed in snow. Now the tree-covered slope was bare, its winter-bleached carpet of leaves and mossy stones warming in the early spring sunshine.


Anticipation, 24 x 36" oil on linen/birch

The smell of rain in the air, as the dark clouds move over the greening fields and woodland.

Awakening, 8 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch

The landscape changes so quickly in the spring. This place that I’d painted in February and March was now veiled in the soft, bright greens of new foliage beginning to unfurl as the days lengthened.

April Anvil Cloud, 14 x 18" oil on linen/birch

This painting grew out of a couple of small plein air studies, taking note of the sprouting fields and watching the formation of a distant storm.


Dandelion Time, 16 x 20" oil on linen/birch

I confess: I love dandelions. Call them an herb, a wildflower, or a weed, they are one of the brightest marks of May.

These Three, 12 x 16" plein air oil on linen/birch

“Now abide faith, hope, charity, these three…” In May 2020, in the midst of so much trouble and wrong, I took some time to visit these beautiful river bluffs, decked out in their spring greens, along Highway 61. The most distant bluff is named Faith, the middle is Hope, and of course “the greatest of these is Charity.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)


Lower Bluff Trail, June; 10 x 16" plein air oil on linen/birch

Painted late one afternoon along the Lower Bluff Trail at Frontenac State Park.
Tall trees, leaf litter, wild ginger.
While painting, I was distracted by noises behind me and saw, through the leaves, a family of foxes playing among the rocks and fallen trees. One little guy ventured pretty close before noticing me and dashing away.

Over the River, 10 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch

A hot summer day, looking out over the river towards Wisconsin, from the north side of Barn Bluff/He Mni Can.

Fireflies, 18 x 24" oil on linen/birch

Walking out in the fields on a summer evening, eyes adjusting to the deepening darkness, still able to pick out the soft colors of the fields in the dim light, and finding a dazzling display – a humble beetle, and his innumerable companions, lighting up the night.


The Haybarn Doorway, 14 x 11" plein air oil on linen/birch

I’ve always loved the view through the open doorway of this barn. These doors would often be open on the long summer days when it was haymaking time, letting a cooling breeze, if there was one to be found, make its way into the hot, dusty haymow where we would stack the bales of new hay, filling the farthest corners in preparation for the cold winter to come.

Summer Fields, 24 x 36" oil on linen/birch

This painting began as a sketch on a walk through the fields on a late afternoon in mid-summer. It was a good day for clouds, rich in color and form in the eastern sky. The grain field almost seemed to glow in the light of the sinking sun, while the bird chatter began its evening crescendo.


On the Line, 8 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch

My favorite way to dry laundry, though it sometimes gets an extra rinse with an unexpected summer shower, or an extra wash because birds just don’t care.

Harvesting the Early Apples, 10 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch

Painted on a hot and humid August day, while trying to fit into the tiny patch of shade I’d found. The early varieties of apples were being harvested: off the trees and into the heavy canvas picking bags, gently emptied into wooden crates, and hauled back home, for market and sauce and snacks.


Squash Patch, 10 x 8" plein air oil on linen/birch

The harvest continues. I loved the way the evening light hit the barn and trees, just beginning to show their fall colors, and all the fat little squashes just waiting to be gathered in.

September Woods, Color Study; 10 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch

Painted in among young maples and old oaks, hoping the falling acorns wouldn’t land on my head or hit my painting, studying the fall color - so vibrant, yet earthy – in this familiar corner of the woods.


Clouded Sunset, 16 x 12" plein air oil on linen/birch

Green hay fields, the rusty reds of the trees on the edge of the woods, and the subtle majesty of a clouded sunset.

A Quiet Transformation, 24 x 24" oil on linen/birch

Painted from a field study done on a day in October. The sun couldn’t quite clear the clouds, and the quiet day held occasional rain drops and sounds of distant thunder. The old pasture was a tangle of green grass and dried goldenrod gone to seed, and the leaves of the trees continued their persistent shift to their autumn hues.


November Sky Drama, 24 x 24" oil on linen/birch

One night last fall, before the frost and early snows had seeped all the green from the late autumn landscape, there was a brilliant sunset to the west. But somehow the softer glow in the northeast is what captured my attention, in the clouds looming large over the contour fields and bare trees of the woods.

November Light, 10 x 10" plein air oil on linen/birch

In the woods. The north wind in the treetops, the late November chill creeping up from the leaf-covered ground, and the warm light of the westering sun catching the trunks of the tall trees and casting shadows against the steep hillside.