Crystal Woodward, Opening Reception, September 6, 2019, Galatea Fine Art
Whispers of Desire in an Animated Landscape
Written by Randa Dubnick
Crystal Woodward’s new show is full of charm and paradoxes: drawings of figures that are part landscapes, poems that are drawings and drawings that are poems, written in a “landscape alphabet” of lines and textures.
Many of the drawings feature two figures in a landscape, sitting close together, perhaps engaged in quiet conversation. Woodward says that these figures are the starting point for these drawings. The ethereal faces of these figures are charming and mysterious. Are they mythical, magical, biblical? Swaths of lines and textures emanate from the two figures, creating swirling paths through the white space of the drawing. Woodward notes that the figures are close to the landscape and that the landscape is an extension of them.
Crystal Woodward, Thinking of Abel, 14.25 x 10.25, Pencil on Paper
Traditional Western perspective does not apply. The composition of these drawings is reminiscent of Chagall or perhaps even Chinese screen paintings. Woodward shares that a friend once said to her: “You are a Chinese Bosch.” (After looking at some Chinese screen paintings and The Garden of Earthly Delightsby Hieronymus Bosch I could see the connections.)
Most of the works in this show are done with pencil and ink, but a few of the works are painted with watercolor, pastel, or acrylic. These colorful works also focus on two central figures that seem somehow magical or mystical. Patches of bright colors float free, unlinked from the delicate outlines of figures, as in Stay, Walk in Our Seas of Mist.
Crystal Woodward, Stay, Walk in Our seas of Mist, 25.5 X 18.5, Acrylic on canvas
Woodward’s figures exist in a landscape that is evoked as much as drawn and described in her own “landscape alphabet”: lines and textures that have assigned meanings (as is the case in hieroglyphics, architectural drawings, maps, and even emojis.) The largest work in the show is a triptych that provides a key to the landscape alphabet, translating it into the words of the poem embedded in one of her drawings. Woodward uses this visual alphabet in several of her drawings. To illustrate their poetic nature, she even read some poetry out for me: “In a corner of the garden my frozen sadness melts.” That’s a great line of poetry, whether written in English or drawn in hieroglyphics!
Woodward’s show also includes her “Faces” series. In each drawing a single face appears to emerge from the white space of the paper. Woodward creates these haunting faces with evocative and economic mark-making. Each face is alone, ungrounded, unconnected. Are their expressions fearful — or does their apparent anxiety just reflect our own?
Perhaps there is also a bit of worry on the wistful and whimsical faces of Woodward’s figures. They are in the garden now, but for how long? Woodward’s concerns about the environment, about the “sixth extinction”, are evident in the titles of works like Planet is lost,or: Next time, there will be no Noah’s Ark. Woodward’s work reminds us that like her figures, we are part of the “animated landscape,” not separate from it. We enjoy it most when we are connected through love, language, and art. But if we want to continue to live in this garden, we need to protect it.
Crystal Woodward. Whispers of Desire in an Animated Landscape. September 4-29, 2019. Visit Galatea Fine Art at 460B Harrison Ave., #B-6, Boston, MA 02118. 617-542-1500. Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 12-5pm and by appointment.
Please join us for an Artist Talk on September 21 – 3pm, at Galatea Fine Art with artist members Barbara Eskin, Jane Paradise and Crystal Woodward.