Nate's Notes on Water

Award-winning artist and teacher, Nate Durnin shares his notes on our show…

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Masterfully capturing the essence of the sublime, Luba Caruso's seascapes and cloudscapes explore the world's immeasurable beauty and tumultuous power. Forgoing the turbulent storms and shipwrecks found in similar narratives, Caruso offers the viewer a quiet reflection on the immensity of nature. Collosal clouds and infinite skies loom over fragile horizons. Abandoned ships and speckled towns are dwarfed by the surrounding waters. Time is held on a sustained note as we wait for the first bolt of lightning or a wave to reach the shore. 
    The near surrealism of the work suggests that these seascapes are tethered to more than the sea. One gets the sense that they are peering in as much as they are peering out and this space that is so large is simultaneously intimate. A complex range of emotions is suggested through the image. Fear, melancholiness, and loneliness coincide with calmness, hopefulness, and clarity.

Despite the ominous tones, Caruso conjures a sense of serenity in the stillness of the scene. Although the scale of the world is intimidating, the painting never tells us to be afraid. Through her meditative use of color and composition, Caruso offers another view of our surrounding world. One in which we're not adverse to the forces of nature but rather we ourselves are connected. The occasional vessels adapt a symbolic meaning as they do not fight the storm, but sail peacefully with the water's tide. 



For Jean Uhl Spicer, flowers and landscapes become a launching point for explorations of design, texture, and mood. Through a balance of intricate observation and deceptively simple passages, Spicer blends the real with the abstract to create powerful statements of color. 

Tangles of stems and petals grace the paper in a seemingly chaotic way.  At times the flowers in Spicer's paintings appear as if they're on the verge of bursting through the constraints of the vases and perhaps even the constraints of the paper. There is a clear sense of the autonomy of nature. And yet through color and composition Spicer illuminates a hidden order to things. Colors find ways to balance each other and the interwoven stems form complex shapes and patterns across the picture plane. 

 In her landscapes, Spicer portrays her emotive response to a space through the sweeping movement of light. Some works shows intense morning light, casting strong violet shadows across the ground, while others suggest the last glimpse of sun before the night sets. Deep yellows and reds bathe the landscape just prior to the quiet hush of twilight. The image of the landscape is not the subject, but rather a support for the beautiful movement of light and atmosphere. 

Although the inspirations vary, Spicer's result is always a genuine expression of the subject, capturing not only the shapes and forms but the emotional experience as well.



The majority of landscape paintings throughout art history portray images of trees, large skies, grand vistas, and perhaps some urban architecture. Through these pictures alone one would never suspect that an entirely different world makes up more than two thirds of our planet. This is the world of Denise Vitollo. Below the glassy surface of the ocean, Vitollo explores color, weightlessness, and mystery. Much like the snorkeling experiences that inspired these paintings, one gets the sense that they're only getting a small glimpse of a seemingly endless space. 

Primarily working in pastel, Vitollo takes advantage of the directness of the material to capture flowing grasses and heavily saturated colors. Vibrant blues and oranges move freely across the surface in bold compositions that further break the mold of traditional landscape. 

Without the burden of gravity or a horizon the forms are given a sudden freedom of movement across the space. Vitollo's jellyfish paintings perfectly exemplify this uninhibited spirit. Gracefully twisting and contorting through the water, the jellyfish are reminiscent of aquatic ballet performers illuminated by the spotlight. One can't help but recall Degas' masterful pastels of Parisian ballet dancers. 

Gazing at this marvelous secret world there is a sense of regret that the sun will shine only so far into the ocean. The spectacles that Vitollo portrays only deepen our curiosity for what tremendous landscapes are hidden away. However what Vitollo reveals is a testament to how much nature can still inspire art that is innovative, fresh, and exciting.