The view from Margie Sawyer’s studio is a daily inspiration for the painter. It is a watery view; it is the Pasquotank River and the vegetation along the shore that she sees.
There is also the house. She can see her house from the studio. It is a cedar-shake house on pilings, atop the water.
The bridge to her front door is rustic and the planks bend just so when you walk upon them. All of it is inspiring.
But it was one particular day a handful of years ago that inspired Sawyer to create a series of paintings that will be shown for the first time at Arts of the Albemarle beginning Friday with a reception for the artist.
The show is titled, “Preserving the Places We Love,” and is in partnership with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.
The river outside Sawyer’s front door, washing up against the shore, had brought with it what Sawyer cautiously refers to as pollution. It was white foam that is not uncommon in inland coastal waterways — a combination of inorganic and organic matter.
Sawyer took photos of the foam that was snaking through the water, and up against the shoreline. The images were at once beautiful and disturbing, she says.
Sawyer took the photos to an artist’s retreat in Vermont where she has been known to frequent. People there saw the images and suggested that she paint them, and do so on large canvases.
That was in 2011.
“I’ve been working on them ever since,” she says.
The images are abstracts. On the large canvases, they detail the contrast of colors, shapes and the way the unexpected foam breaks up the everyday views of the water beneath her.
Sawyer quickly observes that living atop the river for 15 years, it is easy to take for granted that which she sees each day. But the presence of the foam allowed her to see the river in a new light, and has given her a new appreciation for her surroundings ever since that day.
So Sawyer set out to share that experience. These large paintings suggest a presence of mind that while based on reality, affords you the ability to see beyond the obvious. The images, the color and the organic shapes suggest that something is happening and it is up to you to accept it for what it is, or perhaps create your own back story that satisfies what will likely be a fascination with these images — think of moths drawn to flames.
“We look but we do not see,” says Sawyer of the meaning behind the paintings. “These are beautiful, yet they challenge you.”
Sawyer thinks of herself as a colorist. And inside her studio, glancing at the collection of paintings there, it is easy to see why.
While her pallet ranges around the color wheel, the primary and secondary colors stand out on any given painting. Her typical style is post-impressionist, leaning toward Fauvist. She paints with a loose brush but her vision is keen to capture a moment with a precise eye.
Typically, she says, she is inspired by color. Although her subjects might vary, a color inside that image you see upon the canvas was likely the very thing that set her off.
“I always look for color,” she explains. “Color could be just one flower that will attract me and then the composition will come.”
She sees emotion in color. And perhaps that explains the pallet she chose for this latest compilation of paintings.
The colors reflect the river and the vegetation, but they are an abstract of what nature has brought to bear. They are more muted than her other works and they reflect something the artist rarely shows locally — a love for the abstract and the less obvious.
Sawyer pulls out several mixed media pieces. She suggests that these multi-dimensional images are her true calling. She seems attached to their abstract nature and that attachment comes out in this latest collection of paintings, albeit with a more accessible approach.
Looking at Sawyer’s river paintings you will be drawn to them as if you are drawn into the reflections dancing upon the briny Pasquotank River. And you may reflect upon them internally, perhaps asking yourself what it means to live by a body of water that you, too, have likely taken for granted all of these years.
Sawyer will also include a series of very small works in this show. These range from a more familiar take on area landscapes to inventive mixed media works. And while these paintings are beautiful, they do not speak as loudly as the painter’s primary works, the river paintings.
A portion of the proceeds of this show will go to the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust. The show will hang for the entire month of April.
For more information about the show, you can contact Arts of the Albemarle at 252-338-6455.