Carol Stewart and Barbara Rogers’ approach to the natural world is based on distilling that world to light, ornament and, in Stewart’s case, translucency.
Ohio-based Stewart paints tabletop still lifes, in which she crowds together vases, jars, bottles, fruit, ceramic bowls, flowers and other typical still-life objects, seemingly chosen for their translucency or reflective surfaces. Her paintings are not quite studies of the objects, but rather examinations of how light travels through the translucent glass and bounces off various surfaces.
Stewart completed “Patterns from India” after she returned from a trip to India. Her palette is infused with the saffron, orange, yellow and blue we associate with India’s textile, gastronomic and visual landscape. The colors seem lit from within.
In “Blue Painting with Bird,” vases and pots seem to balance precariously on the surface of the tabletop’s raking angle. While translucence isn’t as important in this painting, the way the light bounces from one object to the other energizes the composition.
Stewart’s paintings feel as if they have room for accidents. Their jumbled compositions, while clearly planned, still project an organic development, as if the artist kept adding to or subtracting from the arrangements as she worked.
In contrast, the combinations of flora, pattern and abstract shapes feel decisive and orderly in Arizona artist Barbara Rogers’ paintings.
Rogers approaches nature through a decorative scrim. She combines stenciled ornamental details with images of flowers and other flora, patterns and passages of abstraction. Like Stewart, she is interested in the interplay between objects and their relationship to one another and to the picture plane. Many of her paintings are suffused with the warm, clear, yellowish light particular to the desert Southwest. On her website Rogers notes, “My most recent works continue my exploration of those emblems of the microcosm that I invent or discover. I try to investigate various systems of order and harmony in what at first appears to be nature’s chaos.”
While developing visual depth in her paintings, Rogers discovered that ovals tend to create a dimensional space, whereas circles seem to simply lie on the flat picture plane. In “Forest Altar #2” and other large works, such as “Ring Master #2,” the multicolored disks create a successful illusion of depth as they float around the composition.
The “Strange Botany” series has tight vignettes of pattern, artifice and flora. While colorful, decorative and very attractive, they nonetheless feel a bit corporate, giving off an unfortunate and slight whiff of the formulaic.
Both artists are engaged with the natural world but enter through very different portals. Stewart’s studies of the nature of light have room for spontaneity and the drama of light traveling through glass and reflecting off surfaces, while Rogers’ paintings provide her version of nature with a scaffolding of pattern and ornament.
“Carol Stewart: Light & Pattern” and “Barbara Rogers: Botanica Exotica” continue at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, 2004 Baltimore, through May 24. Hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment. For more information, call 816-221-2626 or go to SherryLeedy.com.