Growing up in the vast flat spaces of the Midwest gave me the sense of the infinite space of the horizontal horizon. From Chicago, my family felt it necessary to escape to “beautiful places” on weekends. We would drive, and between the city and the “beautiful” destinations lay the giant steel mills of Hegewisch, Illinois and Gary, Indiana; power plants and enormous white spheres of chemical storage tanks—all rising up along the empty flat blue horizon of Lake Michigan, becoming for me, the beautiful places.
Now confined to the urban space of Washington DC, my world is peculiarly claustrophobic. I left film making after 25 years to work in a medium that allows my physical self to be in the space I create. Space and scale are critical in my work. I create long, inked landscape scrolls on paper. In the traditions of both Chinese landscape painting, and the Western film storyboard, the representations of land, objects and space mean more than representation and invite the viewer into the space of work itself; the time and the space is non-linear, the story lines operate at different paces. The horizontality of the scroll allows things to unfold in a rhythm controlled by the viewer—my foil to the classic framed picture. I am after a fantastic energy, like the primal thrill of a dark fairy tale, gathered by sampling from external and internal landscapes, chosen and rendered significant by the self.
LAURA LITTEN: In the Galleries,
Sunday September 21,2014
BY MARK JENKINS
Although it’s titled “The Bellini Project,” after the 15th-century Italian painter, Laura Litten’s Studio Gallery show includes much nature imagery. All the pictures are landscapes in an extreme horizontal format, and all but one (an oil painting) meld watercolor, gouache, ink and pencil. The Chicago-forged D.C. artist uses clean colors and delicate lines to depict a whale, a pelican, a snail and some rabbits, which enter the scenes in a gently uncanny manner. Whether placed in a center panel or around the edges, the creatures are as incongruous as the inorganic objects Litten also inserts: telephones, a piano, an airplane and metal pipes and bolts. The artist writes that these juxtapositions were inspired by the strangeness of Bellini’s “Madonna and Child,” but others may think of surrealism.