Causing Moments: WSG Gallery's “Lynda Cole: Recent Places and Themes”


Lynda Cole, Two-2

Lynda Cole's Two-2; oil stick, cold wax on Terraskin, mounted on Gator Board.

Local artist Lynda Cole is back at the WSG Gallery with another adventure in abstraction that’s as much about her sense of self as it is an exploration of art itself.

The last time we saw her work was in November 2015 when she held North to be as much a state of mind as it is a navigational direction. As I wrote at that time, Cole’s North exhibition was a “fusing of time and space -- through a particular state of mind.”

Her Recent Places and Themes is more of the same. As Cole says in her gallery statement, “Months ago, when I began working on paintings for this show, I was exploring the simple way in which two colors would interact.”

But, she continues, “at the same time I knew I wanted to say something about a recent trip to Antarctica and the rapid loss of the glaciers. The hanging piece in this show Future Polar Memories and the painting Snow Storm on the Glacier are meant as my tribute to the beauty of the Polar Regions on the Earth. In the end, this is a show about process in the studio and processes on the Earth.”

Is this final thought ever accurate because Cole has the remarkable ability to play out her emotions through her creativity: Her art vividly illustrates the principle that there’s always something new to learn about the venerable in the visual arts.

In this instance, the seemingly played out vein of gestural abstraction is given new life as Cole straddles first-generation expression with second-generation chromaticity. Her sure-handed melding of gesture with color field emphasizes the heroic element of that art form.

Whether slash, daub, drip, or splash, it doesn't seem there are any variants on gestural abstraction that haven’t already been appropriated. And frankly, most of the post-1970s abstraction I’ve seen indicates this notion is accurate. There’s often an astringent beauty to the form, but it seems repetitious and mannered for the most part.

Cole dispels this issue through the most crucial of measures. Rather than apply played-out wrinkles in the form, she absorbs and exhales them. Using existentialism, one of the inspirations for abstract expression, Cole appropriates this visual vocabulary by hitching her work to the idea of authenticity.

And this authenticity yields a creativity that’s as distinct as a fingerprint. Cole’s touch is heightened by the use of her materials as well as the application of these materials to the composition’s working surface.

It’s neither a precisely logical process nor does the notion of rationality factor into its being. As Cole has said of her art, “These days my work is non-narrative -- it’s about mood or say, an interesting line. ... I don’t intend to ‘tell’ anyone anything. My intention is more to cause a moment of feeling peace or contemplation. I can’t actually ‘say’ what I’m trying to get across. The viewer just has to get it and make it his or her own.”

Lynda Cole, Two-6 and Snow Storm on the Glacier

Two paintings by Lynda Cole. Left: Two-6; oil stick, cold wax on Terraskin, mounted on Gator Board. Right: Snow Storm on the Glacier; encaustic, oil, and cold wax on rag paper.

Take, for example, the show’s masterwork, Snow Storm on the Glacier, an encaustic, oil, and cold wax on rag paper painting. The work features a number of time-honored abstract strategies -- none more than a vigorous application of base pigments to ground the arrangement with slashes and daubs on the 3x3-foot-plus working surface. Rather than uniformly apply her pigments, Cole selectively attacks the corners of her undercoating.

As a result, the work’s foreground suggests a turbulence whose gesture splays across our field of vision. Effectively, the coherence of Snow Storm on the Glacier lies in the viewer’s marshaling his or her emotion through the work’s disorder.

The same may be said of Cole’s slightly smaller Two series running approximately 1 1/2 feet by 2 1/2 feet with each work borrowing from the abstract tradition. But in repeating her inspiration, Cole crafts a series that’s uniquely her own.

Some paintings, such as the gray to blue palette Two-2, use a horizontal pattern of two uneven squares to great effect, while Two-3 features a gray to pink curvilinear scrub for a touch of sublimity.

These paintings' unevenly scrubbed color schemes, such as Two-5, Two-6, and Two-8, appear diagonally tipsy. Each painting implores us to come feel this art today.

John Carlos Cantú has written on our community's visual arts in a number of different periodicals.

WSG Gallery: “Lynda Cole: Recent Places and Themes” will run through March 17. The WSG Gallery is located at 306 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Exhibit hours are Tuesday-Thursday, noon–6 pm; Friday and Saturday, noon-9 pm; and Sunday, noon–5 pm. For information, call 734-761-2287 or visit