Special Exhibition Hours:
Tuesday - Saturday, 12 - 5 pm
THE MAGIC REALISM OF CAYETANA CONRAD
M. Sutherland Fine Arts is proud to announce the gallery’s first solo show of paintings by California artist Cayetana Conrad in the exhibition entitled Tangled Woods. These enchanting landscapes capture visions that an observant hiker might encounter wandering in the fields and woods near the artist’s Santa Barbara studio.
“Magic Realism in both painting and literature influenced my paintings, but I never set out to make a painting in any particular style,” says Conrad. Growing up in a California family of artists and writers, she majored in painting as an undergraduate at Yale, before living in New York in the early Eighties. It was a transitional period in the art world as new figurative movements broke through the dogmatic reign of abstraction. “I was particularly influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel A Hundred Years of Solitude, but I’m also thinking of the intricate still lifes of Dutch masters.”
Cayetana Conrad’s paintings often combine an in-your-face of plants and animals in the foreground, and a full-blown landscape beyond. The close-up view in “Fallen Tree,” 2010 of three snails in the grass is painted from a low perspective that only a bird or small child might have. “Adults tend to see a whole landscape as they walk through it, but children see the small things. When I go into the woods, I will sometimes sit for twenty minutes, just watching. If you are still, you’ll spot snails or praying mantises in the grass, rabbits in the brush, and owls in the tree branches.”
Conrad works from dozens of photographs to compose a painting, and spends months, even years applying layers of paint and tinted glazes to achieve a heightened reality. “While I may start a painting with large, almost expressionistic brushstrokes, I enjoy the meditative aspect of working in a detailed manner.” The results are a unique blend of close observation of nature with personal whimsy. Marianne Moore wrote in 1935 that the job of the poet was to create “imaginary gardens with real toads in them” and that the poets must be “literalists of the imagination.” In her landscape “Tangled Woods,” (2010), Conrad actually paints a toad in great detail into the shadowy foreground of the six-foot-long painting, while in the other corner, nearly hidden by a tapestry of nasturtiums, we see the skeletal remains of another frog. The artist says, “I put snail-eaten leaves, dead flowers, and small skeletons into my pictures as a reminder of our ephemeral existence.” And this element of mortality makes the light sparkling on the windblown leaves appear all the more radiant.