Saturday, July 25, 2009

REVIEW: Karen Dawson at Muddy Waters

Karen Dawson’s vibrant drawings and paintings have been a fixture on the Vermont art scene for over 20 years. Fifteen of her pieces are now on view at Muddy Waters in Burlington, and they are a nice counterpoint to the dreary summer weather we’ve been stricken with this year. Dawson is a master of color, who works in many media - acrylic, oils, watercolor, and drawing. Her drawings at Muddy Waters include work with colored pencil.

Dawson fractures space to create compositional movement in a manner reminiscent of synthetic cubists, such as Feininger, and figurative artists identifying Der Blaue Reiter - artists such as Franz Marc, and Gabriele Münter. Fauvism also seems to be integral to the context of her works. But making such comparisons is risky. Dawson has a broad range of influences - influences that are rather sub conscience. “Totem Structures” is an acrylic abstraction that includes an expressive elephant and a range of colors modified by changes in value. Her colors are much less raw than the Fauves. And in contrast to artists of the European avant-gardes, New England painter Dawson is drawn to the landscape rather than psychological space. Her approach to the landscape is more informed by Emily Carr, and the Canadian Group of Seven, than by the French Impressionists.

Dawson is ultimately a highly original mature artist, who approaches every canvas with a fresh eye, and a confident aesthetic. Her show at Muddies is joyful and alive.