February 17, 2020
written by Elizabeth Spadea for Ellenbogen Gallery
Manchester, VT 05255 / (802) 768-8498
Strokes, marks, washes, drips and splashes of colorful paint cover the canvas, becoming abstract landscapes, conveying a message of Dona Mara’s relationship with the Earth.Vermont-based artist Dona Mara channels her personal feelings related to the abuse of our planet through an array of artistic mediums.In the artist’s words, she feels “assaulted with the recognition that man is being careless in the stewardship of the land, water and air.” (‘Not in the boathouse anymore; Natural inspiration, abstract expression’ written by Telly Halkias, Artistic Landscape, Bennington Banner, Saturday June 15 2019)
“Water Lilies” by Claude Monet from the series Water Lilies (1916); Oil on canvas, 78.93″ x 79.13″
It takes nothing more than catching a glimpse of rain reflecting in the window, light gleaming across a body of still water, fog creeping across the field, an explosion of color on the horizon or wind rushing through foliage to spark Dona Mara’s curiosity and get her heading towards the studio and a new canvas. Three artworks from Mara’s last show called my attention as they balance inspiration from her natural surroundings with heavy-handed reflections that emerge from her emotional journey.‘Heavenly Wandering’, ‘Transformative’ and ‘Pond Edge’ are all steeped in mystery while at the same time reveal a clear narrative to those viewers who connect with the artist’s commentary on, and concern for, the state of our Planets' future.
Reflecting on her interaction with and observance of her surroundings, Mara reimagines our Earth through a lens of ambiguity, concern and beauty, translating her personal reflections into a visual language. She aims to awaken the audience to the reality of mankind’s disruptive relationship to nature our fleeting coexistence as it plays out on the canvas. Focusing on Earth tones, she incorporates strong primary and secondary splashes of paint on top, creating depth within her abstract imagined landscapes.
Within the work ‘Transformative’, Dona Mara is telling a story about the sky, a mountain and a body of water. Each part of the landscape is imaginary and utilizes her knowledge of color to portray her relationship to the Earth. Primarily composed of pale blues, shades of pink and green and a subtext of black, her colors capture attention; the work unveils more about itself the longer it is observed and transforms between something peaceful and something dark.
Colors blend and crash into each other at the command of Dona Mara’s brushstrokes which create complex, layered vistas by introducing horizontal and vertical strokes, drips and marks and colors that don’t belong where they can be seen; a once pastoral and quiet natural scene is corrupted and crowded, bleeding from wounds delivered by the hand of others and rippling with a frenetic energy better suited to an industrial area. Working with a multitude of media, this processed-based art features strong texture and color composition which fall within the parameters of abstract art.
Dramatic streams of light give the work direction and allow a narrative to emerge. As a viewer, we can stand back and insert ourselves into the ‘world’ of the painting. As Mara explains, she keeps her work fluid and open to interpretation. She is open-minded and aims for her viewers to find what they can within her paintings. Romanticism takes center stage in Mara’s ‘Pond Edge’, which hearkens back to her trip to Monet’s lily pond and the artist’s many paintings of the same. Softer tones depict a scene of water and Earth as they kiss and the banks of the pond cling passionately to the vines and underbrush. Here there is no imprint of mankind, only admiration of art history, of color and of nature.
In ‘Heavenly Wandering’, presumably inspired by observations of the rivers and lakes scattered throughout the North East, Mara also makes a reference to her upbringing. Are the dark, repetitive patterns dappling the upper canvas flashes of fish scales, has the surface been smeared with mud and dirt, is the dark stain discarded oil, are the broad strokes of pale gray obscuring parts of the color underneath actually ripples of light reflecting across the river and bumping into the shore? Reminiscing on her grandfather’s garden and weaving, she draws strength from her roots, as she continues to reimagine the physical world and allows the viewer to do the same.
Using a similar visual structure to the works of Claude Monet, in particular ‘San Giorgio Maggiore At Dusk’ and ‘Antibes Seen from The Salis Garden II, Mara explores a comparable color palette. Short strokes which emphasize texture move across the scene, distorting the clear image of the natural landscape. Infused with the principles of abstract art, Dona Mara adds conceptual strength into traditionally and technically beautiful paintings.‘Heavenly Wandering’, ‘Transformative’ and ‘Pond Edge’
Feb 17 2020