Artist spotlight: Louisa McElwain
The abstract painter is integrated into the rhythm of nature and beauty.
Louisa McElwain lives and works near Santa Fe, New Mexico. "Here in the West" she says, "it seems that the canvas is never big enough.
Conference, Earth and Sky, oil
"She makes do with 60-by-90 inch canvases, which allow her to include her entire field of vision at arm's length.
But McElwain is not a plein-air painter. She considers herself an abstract painter who happens to paint outside.
"When Clement Greenburg asked Pollock, 'What about nature?' Pollock said, ‘I am nature.' When I'm painting, I feel part of it,"McElwain says. "I'm integrated into the rhythm of nature and the beauty of things that move in."
A classically trained artist with roots firmly planted in the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, McElwain paints with knives and masonry trowels, working quickly to capture an image before the light fades or the clouds drift past.
Inspired by the color theory of Joseph Albers and a masters workshop with Wolf Kahn, it was at the Nera Simi drawing studio in Florence, Italy, in 1973 where McElwain says she learned to see by focusing on the same figure drawing for two weeks.
For McElwain, paint is not subordinate to the motif. She often incorporates bits of stone, glass, plants, and even insects into the paint as she works.
"There is a powerful feeling that surges up from the earth and through me as I paint," she says. "I am vulnerable to the powerful forces of wind and light and bugs.
There is a rhythm to nature, a measured meter and tempo, the speed the clouds move in the sky, and the way the shadows shift.
I'm walking a line, balancing between allowing the painting to exist for its own sake and expressing something true about my experience of nature.”
• Chaparral Fine Art, Bozeman, MT, 406-585-0029, www.chaparralfineart.com
• Evoke Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM, 505-995-9902, www.evokecontemporary.com
• Heritage Gallery, Scottsdale, AZ, 480-941-9041, www.heritageonlinegallery.com
• Karin Newby Gallery, Tubac, AZ, 520-398-9662, www.karinnewbygallery.com
• Kneeland Gallery, Ketchum, ID, 208-726-5512, www.kneelandgallery.com
• Manitou Galleries, Santa Fe, NM, 800-283-0440, www.manitougalleries.com