From the Dirt to the Skies is a group exhibition featuring new works in painting, drawing, and printmaking from four of Main Street Arts’ gallery artists — Pat Bacon, Chad Grohman, Meredith Mallwitz-Meyer, and Lanna Pejovic. The artwork is inspired by fog-laden lakes, wooded paths, gardens, and objects plucked from nature.
Next in an interview series with the artist, executive director and curator Bradley Butler talks to painter Lanna Pejovic about painting on-site as well as in the studio, her color palette, and what inspired the work included in the exhibition.
From The Dirt to The Skies:
Q: Can you talk about the work included in the show and what inspired it? Is there a single theme running through the work?
A: The paintings in this show are more focused on flower gardens. Much of my previous work deals with the larger spaces found in the broader landscape. Even if I’m painting a garden, I’m normally more interested in the space of the garden, not the flowers themselves.
For whatever reason I felt more like being right in the flowers, so that’s what I focused my attention on.
Q: What is on your mind while you’re working?
A: It often depends on the mood of the day but I am focusing on specific gardens. Memories of being in these specific places because it isn’t a generic idea of a garden, the memories come from my experience being in a garden. When I get ready to paint I think about the color mood of that day. Its a conversation with the painting about the color mood of that particular day.
Q: When you’re recalling these gardens in your memory, are you trying to hold onto one specific image? Or do the images keep passing through in your mind?
A: I try to hold on to the image and go back to the same space in my mind. Two of the paintings included in this show are from the most intensive garden experience I’ve had, which is at Linwood Gardens. Linwood is a big place so it has all kinds of spaces that are very planned out, yet not rigid. Flowers and vegetables are planted together and continue to grow there all summer long. That’s where I spent some time a couple of years ago and I try to go back to that mental space while I’m painting, that combined with photos I took. Since I never did drawings in the garden, I am doing that now. Making charcoal drawings in the current mood I’m in which is a more linear and scribbly way of defining details of what I’ve seen. I try to revitalize my experience of the garden first in charcoal and then move towards oil paint.
Q: You have 3 oil paintings in the show along with 8 small pastel drawings, can you talk about the pastels?
A: Those were totally unplanned. I was thinking about a generalized idea of the garden, thinking of a poetic mood about a garden. Trying to not be specific, and not adding specific garden elements. Since they are very small, I couldn’t use the same gestural technique I’m using on the paintings. I didn’t have a specific image that I wanted and I like the ones best that are more diffused. Those are the ones that bring me back to the sensory experience of being in the garden. I focused on laying some color down, smudging the pastels and seeing what memories that might trigger. From there I would draw back into it, which was an unplanned gesture of the moment. I went through lots of paper, you never know if that gesture or that color combination will be successful. With pastels, you can only go so far with layering colors before they aren’t able to be brought to any kind of conclusion.
Q: Can you talk about your color palette for these pieces?
A: I’m very affected by what’s going on around me, I don’t work in a vacuum. I am aware of the landscape around me. As a landscape painter I am very much affected by the weather, the light, and the mood of the day. Paintings take their own course sometimes and you decide whether to follow it and support it or whether you will deny it. Letting certain colors in to the composition and then reacting to those colors.
I have been making an effort recently to rely less on blues and greens in my paintings. Those colors are so prevalent in our area, especially this time of year, it tends to dull the senses in a way. You can’t feel anything fresh about the garden. So I ask myself, how can I refresh the idea of being in a place that is a garden? I like winter gardens and I like the fall and a lot of the pastels are fall colors, somehow they kept coming out in the pastel drawings. I find the fall and winter to be more inspiring times of the year.
Q: How does your environment impact your work?
A: The kind of painter I am, I am very sensitive to the lyrical mood or sound of the day. That in combination with my own mood, ends up having an effect on my dialog with that particular painting on that day.
Q: Can you talk about your studio practice and how do you balance working on-site vs. being in the studio?
A: It’s hard being outside working on-site but I feel that it’s necessary, whether I’m just making a sketch or a full painting, that’s where I get the real experience of being there. Otherwise the finished painting wouldn’t have the sense of immediacy that I’m after. The symbolic and formal idea that has come out of my relationship to landscape. It’s more authentic for me to show the immediacy of the moment of being there, or a series of moments. The light is always changing, everything is changing.
I found some drawings I did 35 years ago, very carefully done with layers of accumulation. They are small sketches but they are so fine, I thought “was I ever that quiet and calm working out there?”. I feel like now everything is moving so fast, even though I am out there in the quiet landscape. I feel like the time is going and I have to keep responding to it. Capturing the changing moments I’ve experienced
in a place is important to me now. So the paintings I make in the studio have to feel that way and having actually spent time somewhere helps me to capture the freshness and immediacy of a place.
From The Dirt to The Skies runs through Friday, October 4, 2019.