Wendy Widell Wolff: The Poetic Resonance of the Quotidian

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” ~Aristotle

At first glance, Wendy Wolff’s paintings may seem to represent simply the outward appearance of landscape elements: trees, hills, rivers, and the human homes that surround them. But Wolff’s careful compositional arrangements do much more. They convey resonant moods: longing, loss, the evocative charm of lost rural existence, the anxiety of fenced containment, or the threat of environmental devastation. Wolff’s moody paintings can describe nostalgia or distress. Or they can create a surreal fantasy: a world of red trees, purple skies, or strangely textured ground that slides down the canvas as if tumbling into oblivion.

Seen in photographic reproduction, Wolff’s works may seem to be flat and precisely representational. But when Wolff’s works are seen in person, the tightly woven marks of the pointed brushstrokes and the variegated texture built by numerous layers of paint create thick impasto relief. Her elegant surfaces reject the flat, smooth nature of most two-dimensional art. Instead, Wolff builds her images with carefully controlled layers of brilliantly colored paint, so that the viscous substance of the pigment is transformed into building blocks for sculpted surfaces.

Even closer viewing reveals that Wolff does not create her images out of single colors. Instead, what may appear to be a purple tree is constructed of tiny, tight brush strokes of red and blue. Like Pointillist master Georges Seurat, Wolff knows that from even a slight distance, the human eye will blend the disparate colors into a singular tone. Such active looking engages the viewer in the physicality of the artwork in ways that simple, flat colors do not.

Wolff creates images that initially seem to reproduce the outward appearance of simple objects from our everyday existence. But in fact, her houses and trees and hills and rivers are sheer poetry. Her rich surfaces and sophisticated use of color transport viewers to surreal worlds of wonder and delight. Drawing on memory and imagination, Wendy Widell Wolff allows us to see houses and trees and hills as multivalent objects with profound inward significance.

Betty Ann Brown, Art Historian, Critic and Curator
October 2015

Detail from Wendy Widell Wolf Drawing