For many artists drawn to the Southwest, the landscape is both subject and inspiration, from realist depictions with horizon lines and mountainous vistas, canyon lands, and brush-dotted hills to abstractions. The work of Santa Fe-based Karina Hean avoids the easy classification of “landscape art” while still conveying a feeling of the land; biomorphic forms swirl in near-monochromatic compositions with an earthy quality and the suggestion of outdoor terrain, clouds, and sky. Gone from Hean’s mixed-media pieces, on view in Bits and Pieces at Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, are the horizons and vibrant colors of the high-desert terrain, but the great outdoors remains a catalyst for her drawings and monoprints in the exhibit. “The work is definitely landscape-inspired, landscape-based,” Hean told Pasatiempo. “I’m very big into hiking and walking. Spending hours doing that, the more I realize I’m just grabbing shapes. When the show is over I’m hoping to get back to it. It’s kind of ironic that preparing for a show takes you away from the inspiration on some level for a little bit.” Bits and Pieces includes mixed-media constructions by Catherine Gangloff and linear works on paper by Michel Déjean as well as work from three series by Hean: Swarm, Traverse, and Wonder Wander.
Hean makes compositions that combine contrasting elements that leave the viewer slightly disoriented as though seeking firm ground in the midst of a maelstrom. Dense, dark areas rendered in black are combined with light, opaque washes of color, and rigid, structural forms merge with fluid gestural marks. “I’m always seeking visual contrast. That’s a personality trait. It comes through in the work. I’m looking for that kind of drama of light versus dark, curvilinear versus linear, solid versus atmospheric, amorphous shapes. That’s what I like about the Swarm series — these misty sections where you’re not sure where the space lies.” The series is not overly chaotic, despite its energy. The contrasting elements are somehow cohesive but alive with spiraling, churning motion. “The idea of movement, almost like tornadoes, I think about when I’m drawing them, almost like watching weather happen.” There is also an ephemerality about the Swarm series as though the writhing forms are in a state of transformation, vacillating between solidity and insubstantiality. “Storms come in,” she said, “and storms go away.”
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