Jane Wilson

Fischbach Gallery

Jane Wilson grew up in the heart of the Midwest farm belt, and, for her, nature has long been a subject suffused with meaning. After a requisite stint painting in an Abstract Expressionist style during the ’50s, she turned to gestural landscapes in the early ’60s; she has subsequently developed the genre into a personal vehicle of investigation, exploring the complex correspondences between form and feeling. This show of truly sublime landscape paintings will undoubtedly enhance Wilson’s already fine reputation.

American Light, 1991—a powerful work bringing together the objective face and inner spirit of nature—fairly shimmers with painterly effects. Recalling 19th-century American Luminist landscapes, this work boasts a glorious stretch of sky filled with billowing clouds that reflect the sun’s rays. Wilson’s technique of applying thin layers of oil paint produces surfaces that are so vital and full of movement as to suggest a heavenly agita. That wonderful golden sky—a blaze of swirling coloristic masses—thus became, in the mind’s eye, a visual representation of the universal forces of heat and light associated with the sun and its healing powers.

The low horizon in American Light was repeated in other paintings, including Heat In August, Eclipse, and After Midnight (all 1991), with equal success. The emphasis on the sky provided Wilson with a format eminently suitable for depicting atmospheric conditions as a kind of transparent veil or cloak governing the appearances of things. For example, in After Midnight, earth, clouds, and sky suggested the partly physical, partly poetic sense of fugitiveness that is the mark of a moment remembered. In this painting, the moon seemed to be infused with an otherworldly energy, given the radiant glow emanating from every corner of the composition, even from the darkest patches of ground.

Eclipse and Snow Over Water, both 1991, showed off Wilson’s tactile surfaces to great advantage. Each demonstrated how lessons in pure painting inculcated by Abstract Expressionism can be used to heighten emotive values. It was difficult, for instance, not to feel a quiet thrill when confronted with Snow Over Water, a painting that, via rhythmical brush strokes, conveyed the blanketing effects of this natural occurrence with a startling directness.

Ronny Cohen