As a member of the Yukon Artists @ Work cooperative, I was curious to see a solo show by Dawson City artist Mary Dolman.
Viewing her work at the gallery over the years, I had noticed her style evolve. She layers acrylic paint, often in tendrils, to weave a paint surface that’s personal and alive. In recent work she’s even incorporated painted text into the canvas.
She paints butterflies in smoky air, people fishing in creeks and imagined faces in streams. She conveys a personal and poetic vision, and increasingly has seemed to be finding her voice.
Memoryscapes, Near and Far: An art journalist process doesn’t use text, but that voice comes through.
One of the most interesting things about the show to me was the juxtaposition of Dawson and Dempster landscapes with studies of Mediterranean water and a Spanish mountain town.
It made me reflect that this is the way Yukoners often experience their landscape in these days of relatively inexpensive air travel. We often leave and look at other landscapes before returning home.
“March” gives us a compelling view of Dawson in the late winter.
Trees twined with hoar frost and a snow-lodged picket fence line the road beside the brightly painted houses of Dawson.
A snowmobile track runs parallel to the road’s snowy surface. An intricate variety of purples, blues, yellow, turquoise and grey describe the snow and sky.
Two bundled-up pedestrians, small in the landscape, walk towards each other. It conveys a cohesive and clear feeling of March in Dawson. I experience a strong feeling of recognition when I see it.
Then beside it I see “West Coast Christmas”, a painting of wet blackness of a kind we rarely see in the winter in the Yukon because of the brightness of snow.
Car headlights, tail lights, and the light reflected in the side of a car define the roadway along with street signs and street lights. But the peachy sunset reflected off the sea provides the real light in the painting.
There was no artist statement provided with the show. I missed that, since it provides a viewer or reviewer a starting point to understanding where the artist is coming from, or what her process was.
The show being called “An art journalist process” seemed to indicate that we’re meant to take the process into consideration.
On viewing the show, it seems to me that “journalist” is being used in the sense of one who keeps a journal, rather than someone writing for a newspaper.
Two of the Dawson paintings are identified simply by month. There’s also a “February”, a lovely study of the shadows of branches on snow, with a complex feeling for the colours in the snow and in the shadows.
I get the feeling that we’re meant to see these paintings as journal entries, documenting the places Dolman has been over the past year or so.
Doing some additional research, I found Dolman’s blog at http://marydolman.wordpress.com/.
If you would like more background about her process, she provides it very well there, discussing her painting techniques down to the uses of particular colours to get particular effect.
The show also includes close-up studies of flowers and butterflies, skies and water.
“Mediterranean One” and “Two” are luminous. Unfortunately, the crest of the wave in “One” includes some white and turquoise that aren’t as unified as most of Dolman’s paint surface. This weakens the painting, particularly as it occurs at the focal point.
“Two” uses a wider range of colour from yellow to blue. Its spray is white and fresh, and the wave is sculpted with a shadowed edge under the lip. It’s very strong.
Since these two paintings are very simple in their subject matter, to the point of being almost abstract, the quality of the overall paint surface is very important.
I took a lot of pleasure in “Freeze up on Yukon River”.
An orange canoe and pink highlights in the red trim on a motor boat pick up the pink and orange in the sunset sky. The boats sit on the snow. It’s close to night, close to the end of their use for this year.
I recall stories of people using canoes to cross to West Dawson during freeze up, pushing them over the ice and jumping in when it was necessary.
In this painting Dolman tells us the poetry of that moment, particular to and important in the Dawson calendar, and her voice comes clearly through the strands of paint.