by Larry Groff
A couple of weeks ago I saw Ann Lofquist’s solo exhibition of recent landscapes at the Craig Krull Gallery in Los Angeles. A delightful show of California landscapes, roughly divided between views of distant urban views along the southern California coast and of pastoral areas between the Santa Ynez Valley and Paso Robles in the California interior. I am often attracted to paintings of things the way they are found in nature, respecting its subtle tones and mysterious,idiosyncratic forms. Lofquist shows remarkable depth in her visual investigations, especially with evoking the play of light during dusk and other fleeting moments. The larger sustained work pulled me closer to observe the mesmerizing qualities of the painterly touch of her brushwork and how the painting worked both close up and standing back, where the underlying structure with its pathways and rhythms of color, line and shape relationships unifies these engaging compositions.
I’m delighted to get the opportunity to learn about her work and thank Ms. Lofquist for taking the time out of her busy painting schedule to answer some questions I sent to her by email.
Larry Groff: Please tell us how you to decided to become a painter and who or what have been some of your greatest influences?
Ann Lofquist I attended public school in Bethesda, Maryland, and while in high school I was fortunate to have an exceptional art teacher named Walt Bartman. It’s fair to say that he significantly influenced the direction of my life. As students we were encouraged to paint perceptually, in acrylics. I remember sensing that my eyes were beginning to really see for the first time and that the world was beautiful. It was like first love.
LG: What was art school like for you?
AL: I attended Washington University in St. Louis, which is has an art school incorporated into a larger university. In college we were allotted individual studio spaces, and I was conditioned to believe that the studio is the setting where art should be made. Most of us were abstract painters at that time (early eighties.) I remember that we were preoccupied with trying to do something which was stylistically new — in fact, it was almost an obsession. The problem was that we were looking at other art for inspiration, and naturally our work ended up being very derivative.
However, art school was where I developed the discipline to sustain the development of a painting over a long period of time. I was also introduced to oil paints, which continue to dazzle and bedevil me to this day. In my studio work, I still retain something of the organic working process of my abstract paintings, where the final image is the result of trial and error, addition and reduction, etc.
When I left art school, I worked a couple of years before going back to grad school. When I was working in isolation, I realized that in order to sustain me, my paintings had to directly address my visible surroundings. I also realized that I had lost something of the joy and wonder I experienced as a high school painter. In grad school I came to the realization that landscape was going to be my subject, but I had forgotten what it felt like to work outdoors. I was trying to invent complicated landscapes in the studio without the visual store of information acquired from direct observation. Since then I have tried to find a balance between perceptual and studio painting.
LG: What sorts of things do you look for in nature and what determines your selection? How much does your initial selection determine your final composition?
AL: I think many of us have had the experience of a stab of joy and longing when looking at nature; I certainly have and I’m trying to recapture those moments in my paintings. I’ve found over the years that I unconsciously gravitate towards certain subjects: a certain scale of space (not too vast) which I think is accessible to the human scale. I am also attracted to a landscape which has been shaped by the human presence. Over and over again I’m moved to paint old trees, roads, streams, tracks in the fields or in the snow, and erosion. Many of these subjects are evocations of the passage of time, and I suspect that’s why they move me.
I also prefer the light of the late afternoon/early evening, probably for the same reason. Painting in the morning is problematic for me because I’m a night-owl and hate to get up before dawn. I’m also more attracted to the sense of emotional reflection suggested by the end of the day.
When I go out to paint, the selection of a site is often a long and difficult process — I am looking for a certain combination of subject, space, and atmosphere and have spent countless hours driving up and down country roads looking for the right spot. Once I find a site which pleases me, I tend to go back many times and paint it at different times of day, different seasons, etc. This kind of intimate association with a particular place often bears fruit when I begin studio canvases.
As an aside, the DeLorme Company prints wonderfully detailed atlases (including topography and vegetation) of each of the fifty states. I’ve found them to be an invaluable resource.