Press: Washington Review, June – Sept 2001

by Anne J. Banks, Washington Review, June – Sept 2001

The pairing of these two artists in a single exhibition, one a painter, the other a photographer, is especially fortunate as they are both concerned with nature and landscape in different yet compatible ways. Montgomery sees landscape from the rarified view of spatial distance, an aerial vision that combines geometric abstraction with smoothly rendered natural forms, related by color. While von zur Muehlen probes deeply into the inner space of ponds and vegetation seeking the essence of living plants and their nutrient sources.

Nan Montgomery sees natural form as oppositions of geometry and organic shape – of flowers, hills and plains, all inhabiting a space hovering in a breathless atmosphere of poetic unreality. There is a tentative withdrawal from a commitment to specific spatial context, a separation between the landscape plane and the geometric bands of color. The artist appears to be zooming in on a natural scene, or on a close up view of a flower without actually resolving the connection between abstraction and naturalism. Aesthetically, however, it is the vertical bands of color which function as color codes which give us the intellectual information we need to relate to the natural forms which come alive in the context of their atmospheric color. Montgomery brings this dichotomy off very well through the relationships between the color bands and the colors of the landscape forms which tie the works together. As the bands of color can also be read as space, color is the true reality of these paintings. It has been remarked that the bands of color act here like windows looking out on a landscape; however, they actually function more as clues to integrate the interior (psychological) and exterior (visual) aspects of our experience of art.

While Montgomery’s paintings release the viewer into the realms of ethereal space, von zur Muehlen’s photographs probe the depths of quiet reality, relating the worlds of science and aesthetic beauty. She makes use of chance to the degree that it is an accepted ingredient in her work as it is in nature, while Montgomery recreates nature as a construct of form, color and intellectual thought. Both artists bring to light the inherent poetry of nature as they interpret its many meanings.

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