The haunting acrylic-on-linen landscapes of Maine artist Janice Anthony (b. 1946) were on view this spring in a solo show at Sherry French Gallery in New York City. The title of the exhibition, “Reflections,” could be taken metaphorically to describe the artist’s mediations on unpeopled woods and shorelines, but these carefully observed paintings also include reflections in a more literal sense. In Early Morning Fog (2004) the placid pond mirrors the surrounding trees and grasses, taking on an unearthly violet tone from the diffuse light.
Water is a recurring motif here. Sometimes we skim the rippling current itself, approaching an island feathered with trees; sometimes we look down from a height on a lake as neatly outlined as a feature on a map. A stream can be interrupted by stones or compressed within snowy banks. In Lifting Clouds, March Stream (2005) the water is a narrow strip between layers of wetland grasses, with trees and hills shaping the horizon with gentle curves. This extended horizontal image (12˝ x 42˝) has an eerie serenity that suggests the marshland pictures of George Inness and Martin Johnson Heade. Janice Anthony taps into some of this nineteenth-century mysticism. In her artist’s statement she writes: “The content of my paintings lies beyond the visible features of woods and rocks and water. My intention is to convey the sense of a place; the moving air, the solidity of rock, the transience of water and the strength of the ground beneath. I feel a great affection for the otherness of the natural world.”Anthony is an accomplished realist whose paintings have the verisimilitude and immediacy of a fine photograph yet go beyond mimesis in search of a distillation of wildness. You might come across a natural scene like this, if you traveled far enough and had magical good timing, but the artist has the instincts of true discovery. Her skill is especially notable in the way the paler green leaves cling to the surface of the water. In some paintings, the mirror effect produces an almost surreal configuration of elements, as in the vertical format Vernal Pool (2005). No tree tops are visible, and the insistent vertical rhythm of the narrow trunks divides the canvas into intervals as measured as a musical staff. The water is just a bit below the median level of the painting, and most of the trees are straight enough that there seems to be no discontinuity between the realms of dry land and water. A tangle of bare offshoot branches adds realistic texture, along with some brush at the center, yet this remains a bold formal experiment. At the same time, there is an Alice-in-Wonderland dimension to our disorienting suspension between worlds. Sherry French Gallery, 601 West 26th Street, New York, New York 10001. Telephone (212) 647-8867. On the web at www.sherryfrench.com