“Garden” by Nancy Depew
Lusciously green and highly realized, Nancy Depew’s forestscapes will transport viewers to an untouched oasis during Haynes Galleries’ newest vignette show. “Nancy Depew: Inside the Forest” will feature Depew’s meticulously painted forest scenes that are simultaneously thick with beauty and full of mystery. The exhibit is presented in conjunction with “Roger Dale Brown: Painting Maine.” Both exhibits, which highlight the variety present in contemporary landscape painting, will be on view from July 31 through August 30 at Haynes Galleries at 91 Main Street, Thomaston.
This spotlight on Depew’s work will focus on her series of forestscapes painted in oil. In close-up views of pristine woods, light filters through unseen canopies to spotlight vividly green trees, flowing brooks, and moss-covered rocks, all expertly rendered with the utmost detail.
To achieve such a level of detail, the New Jersey-based artist combines traditional realist oil painting techniques with a contemporary twist. She works extensively from life, building up paint through careful layers, but she also takes photographs to remind herself later of the structure of the scene. The result is work that is remarkably vivid and lifelike. Depew’s forests breathe, move, and change.
But there is also an element of stillness to each scene. Nothing disrupts the silence of Depew’s forests except the sound of water trickling downstream or maybe the buzz of some invisible insect. The quiet is an element imbued from the beginning. “When I paint,” says Depew, “I feel like I’m trying to uncover something that is at once very fragile and elusive. If I talk too loud, it all disappears.” To uncover— and protect— the beauty of each scene, Depew carefully controls the light and infuses each with subtle emotion. With simple, evocative titles like Pause, Pulse, and Suspension, Depew’s work suggests the artist’s state of mind as she worked.
Depew’s titles also hint at the tension viewers will experience in each forestscape. For all of nature’s nooks and crannies exposed in endless detail and soft light, much remains obscured in deep shadow. In Treasure the unknown dangers of wilderness lurk just out of view as a shaft of light reveals a rocky stream. Nature’s beauty cannot be experienced without its risks. Depew’s visual drama is as mysterious as it is enticing.
Working in a rigorous yet refined realist style, Nancy Depew paints portraits and still lifes in addition to her forestscapes. She approaches each genre in the same fashion— with an open mind. “I don’t have a set method that I repeat each time I work,” says Depew. “I try to respond to the artwork as it forms, choosing options that will lead me to learning the most I can from and about the work.” The result is work that has continually captured viewers’ attention. Her paintings have been exhibited widely, including numerous one-woman shows at both galleries and museums, and Depew has received several prestigious painting fellowships.
Viewers can get lost in how well Depew paints the minute details of her forests but the artist says she’s not interested in documenting. Instead, the emphasis is on nature, emotion, and visual poetry. “I see us as a part of nature,” says Depew, “not separate from it.”