LOOK TO THE LAND
A Mary Putman Retrospective
November 16, 2019 - April 15, 2020
Opening Reception: Friday, December 6
5 - 9 PM during Art Loop
In this 50-year retrospective, long-time Delawarean artist Mary Putman draws on the visual language of rural Delaware to communicate farming practices, memory, and melancholic reverie. In this retrospective of her work, Putman features paintings created over four decades that reflect her years of observing the landscape as a means to explore the significance, traditions, and rituals of farming.
The genre of American agricultural landscape lends structure to her paintings with people, roads, and buildings populating the canvas. Although subject matter remains relatively consistent, Putman's work is patently about painting. From the layering of pigment to the often stark compositions, the synergy between shape, color, and texture all conspire to create the narrative of Putman's work. At first glance, Putman's signature oil painting, A Map of the World, on loan from the Biggs Museum, sparkles with its panoramic vista and pristine rendering of American farm life. It quickly becomes obvious that this artist is a keen eyewitness to the scale, topography, colors, and atmospheric pulse of rural Delaware.
The high horizon lines in Putman's paintings yield an uninterrupted aerial perspective as vast fields stretch for miles, some imaginary and some of actual places. To obtain that perspective, Putman
rents a hydraulic lift where she takes photos and draws quick
sketches, then completes the paintings in her studio. Putman is a pristine realist who paints familiar places with careful rendering. The atmospheric effects of the aerial perspective depict the smallness of humanity in relation to the vastness of nature, with the horizon line as a transition between earth and sky. She uses the technique of repoussoir, the French term meaning "to push away," to provide spatial contrast within the distinct zones of landscape. A strong shape in the foreground pushes surrounding shapes into the distance.
Putman's paintings go beyond the obvious formal elements. Lying in the foregrounds of her paintings are winding forms and patterns etched by farming practices that symbolize "human encroachments." Her paintings question the loss of farmland to commercial development. Putman writes, "What we do to the land is not thoughtful... Machines have shaped our current culture... we are entranced by our past, haunted by our heritage... we long to return to our imagined beginnings of innocence and purity..." In Putman's view, greed has swallowed up the rustic grandeur of unspoiled Kelly green fields and the serenity of grazing cattle.
Throughout her career, Mary Putman has worked to create a style rooted in her willingness to paint American life, realistically, with a touch of wit and deft control of her compositions. Simple forms of glowing barns, roadside billboards, soft brushwork, and arbitrary rendering of light reveal an accurate view of native farmland from her past and current experiences. The viewer shuttles through personal experiences in the sweeping generalizations of farm life as memories are immediately transported to rolling hills, winding rivers, billowing tufts of clouds scattered across the cerulean sky, or chasing fireflies on a warm August night.
Putman received her BFA in painting at Carnegie Mellon University. She is the 2002 recipient of the Delaware Division of the Arts State Fellowship for Paintings. Putmanwas selected for the Delaware State Arts Council's Artist-in-Residence Program (1987-1994). Putman has presented numerous lectures such as: Lecture on Landscape Paintings and Meaning in Representational Art, Delaware Women's Conference, March 5, 1994, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Lecture on The History of Landscape Painting (1988). Putman was a Printmaking Instructor at Abington Art Center, Cheltenham Art Centre (1974) and Prints-in-Progress Teacher, Cheyney State Teacher's College (1973-1974). Putman has been interviewed in numerous publications, such as Metropolitan Home, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Akron Beacon Journal. Her paintings are housed in collections of numerous corporations and individuals such as The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Blue Cross of Pennsylvania, Coopers and Lybrand, DuPont Corporation, First Union Bank, General Electric Corporation, Kitchen & Associates, Marine Midland Bank, Markel Corporation, Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Incorporated, Wilmington Trust Company, Matthews Hamilton, Larry Snider, Alan Stein (Board of Directors, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), and other private Collections in Boston, Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Detroit, and several foreign countries.
DuPont I Gallery