Painter Lisa Neher on Fair Valley

Fair Valley, acrylic on canvas, by Lisa Neher (click for larger image)

Fair Valley, acrylic on canvas, by Lisa Neher (click for larger image)

“There is real beauty in the boldness,” said “The Influence of Fauvism” juror Alison Sigethy — a statement that could apply to the exhibit as a whole, but was specifically about the painting above.

Fair Valley by Lisa Neher was Sigethy’s pick for the Amelia T. Clemente Family Award for Best in Show. We asked the artist (last featured on this blog in 2012) to tell us more about the painting.

What’s your goal with a landscape painting like this one? Does it depict a real place?
After all these years of painting landscapes, almost every one — even when it begins from a photo of a specific place — becomes more about the painting than about the place. Long ago I realized that painting a specific scene was too limiting. It was too much like painting a portrait — of interest maybe to those who know the place, but not of interest to anyone else for the specific nature of the image. So my landscapes have become much more generic. I may use an image of a tree I like, but place it beside a stream I like from somewhere else.

How did this painting progress from an idea to a finished piece? Did it come out the way you imagined it?
All my best paintings are second, third, or even more images painted over an original that didn’t quite make it. This way, I can incorporate an element of surprise, of unplannedness, in the painting by letting the previous work participate where it can.

I think this painting began from a failed painting similar in kind. But I painted the horizon lower — a bigger sky — and used the sky lowering to etch out the row of cypress trees and the distant tree line. Then the river, derived from Van Gogh’s “Green Wheat Fields” rushing through the scene, and the fields with the suggestion of rows in the strokes.

Green Wheat Fields, Auvers, 1890, oil on canvas, by Vincent van Gogh. More info on nga.gov.

Green Wheat Fields, Auvers, 1890, oil on canvas, by Vincent van Gogh. More info on nga.gov.

I didn’t really have much idea what I was going for when I began, but when I stopped it was because the painting was just right.

Since this exhibit’s theme is Fauvism, have you found that the Fauvists inspire or inform your work?
I do love some of the Fauvist works, but try to maintain an independence from any school of art or style of painting. Van Gogh is an exception. How could anyone see that incredible painting in the National Gallery and not be inspired.

What are you working on now?
I am currently considering a challenge: a panorama of landscape painted across canvasses of differing sizes covering a scape of sky, sea, and land. Hmmmm.

Fair Valley (detail) by Lisa Neher

Fair Valley (detail) by Lisa Neher

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