Landscapes that stir emotions
"Lake Villa Autumn," by Nina Weiss
Updated: December 20, 2012 2:37PM
Show Highland Park artist Nina Weiss a drainage ditch, and she’ll paint an exquisite, imaginative image of its water.
“I love to paint water and reflections, so when you see it, you would never know that (the drainage ditch) was off Lake Cook Road,” said Weiss.
Her large, expressionistic landscapes will be part of the two-artist show, “Nuances of Landscape: Paintings by Mary Porterfield and Nina Weiss,” running through Jan. 25 at the Koehnline Museum of Art at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines.
Weiss’ work is paired with that of Mary Porterfield, a Chicago artist and occupational therapist, who also paints landscapes. They share a basic concept, said Weiss. “I think that the pairing is we both take landscape, but do something unusual with it that leaves you with an emotion.”
Yet, said Weiss, her work differs from Porterfield in that Porterfield’s incorporates imaginary creatures in scenes that suggest the supernatural, possibly heaven and hell.
In addition to her art practice, Weiss teaches at Columbia College, the Evanston Art Center and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Every summer she travels to Italy and Ireland to lead workshops on painting and drawing.
Some people have described her paintings as ‘moody.’ Others refer to them as ‘glamorous Hollywood,’ she said. She describes them as “lush and dramatic.”
“I think it’s more about my relationship to the landscape and my reaction to the landscape,” Weiss said. “I mean, you definitely get there’s some kind of emotion happening when you look at them, I think.”
Porterfield explained that her art sometimes results from situations she’s faced in her therapy work.
“I set high expectations for myself to make a positive difference in all situations. It’s often difficult to accept that there are circumstances that I can’t affect. In painting, I reference overpowering acts of nature to symbolize these circumstances that are beyond my control, both literally and figuratively.”
Those “overpowering acts of nature” could be geysers, storm clouds, and volcanoes. Specifically, Porterfield continued, it’s her work with Alzheimer’s patients that’s impacted her art. As an occupational therapist, her job includes developing safe discharge plans for patients. Sometimes that means the patients must go into nursing homes.
It’s very hard thing to have to do, something she dislikes doing, said Porterfield. “I used painting as a means to cope with that remorse.”
She added that she’d like visitors to the exhibit to notice how a painting can tell two stories: “one from a distance and one from up close. In working in a dichotomous manner, I hope my work raises more questions than it answers, while showing all is often not what it seems.”