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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Lynette Lombard’s SPIRITS of PLACE

The+main+gallery+wall+in+Borzello+covered+in+work+for+Lynette+Lombards+Spirits+of+Place
The main gallery wall in Borzello covered in work for Lynette Lombard’s Spirits of Place

A breath of fresh air through landscape artworks

Amidst all the IT troubles, finals week woes, and the general miasma of negative and frustrated feelings this past week has dealt me – I had not expected much more than a simple reprieve from the general modernity of life on campus when I walked into Lombard’s SPIRITS of PLACE showcase in the Borzello Gallery. 

However, I was pleasantly surprised when upon viewing Lombard’s paintings I was struck with an uplifting energy. The bright, vibrant, punchy paintings full of expressive broad strokes that spoke of a deep passion to capture the feeling of a landscape and of place were apparently just what I had needed to put some pep back into my step.

Lynnette Lombard is the Chancie Ferris Booth Distinguished Professor of Art at Knox College. She received her MFA in Painting from Yale University. She studied with Mercedes Matter, one of the leading painters of the Abstract Expressionist movement, at the New York Studio School. She has been at Knox since 1990, and is retiring this year. 

Lombard’s work represents the extended tradition of expressionist painting that can be linked to the legacy of Abstract Expressionism. It has contributed to the continued viability and importance of landscape as an artistic genre. The purpose of this exhibit is to honor her long and distinguished teaching career at Knox.

In her showcase description, Lombard says, “my paintings embody a visceral, physical, and poetic experience of place. Painting from life is a shock to my system, a jolt on the nerves, a waking up to being engulfed and consumed by the natural world.” I cannot help myself but to agree with her.

These paintings are full of color and texture, expressing in the simplest of terms not only the physical landscape they are meant to represent, but the atmosphere of those locations. Lombard puts the emotions from being in the varied locations of deserts, forests, and waterside views, into tangible material.

Most impressive is the Salon Wall of 75 landscapes. It is the first thing visible upon entry, spanning the entirety of the second longest wall in the gallery, leaving very little space between each piece. The paintings cover the wall from floor to ceiling, and to view them all at once you have to press yourself flush against the opposing wall. Each are all varied sizes, framed and unframed, canvas, paper, charcoal, paint. The largest is at 3’ x 4’ and the smallest at roughly 7’’ x 6’’.

The collective material is breathtaking. For a moment, there is the sensation of viewing a complex, twisting landscape in person. Individual paintings stick out like the details of a mountainside. Dotted throughout the landscape of the salon wall are particularly stunning clumps of flowers previously hidden by a tree, or tall shrub.

A personal favorite of mine would have to be one of the larger pieces: a painting on canvas framed with a simple thin-edged pale wood. The piece is one example of Lombard’s use of ambiguity. It could be the view from the interior of a cave, with stalagmites and a snippet of the sky, or a riverside in a forest, with the dead and chopped down trees in the foreground painted navy blue with periwinkle highlights. Large and loosely defined cobblestones are embedded in a rich brown dirt. The river churns behind them, a multitude of deep blues and bright purples. 

The entire piece screams with color. It feels moody and tense, yet also invigorating. Everything is moving and changing all at once, each stroke is full of energy and momentum, leading the viewer’s eyes in big swooping loops throughout it. The bent vertical strokes of the trees in the foreground draw up your eye into the swirling river behind them, and whisk you away into the landscape.

Salon Wall (highlighted painting)

Leaving behind the Salon Wall is hard, yet just as exciting.

Other pieces in the showcase, like Prayer to J1, are full of heavy impasto – the buildup of paint which shows the brushstrokes or pallet knife marks created by the artist. The paintings are coated with nearly inch thick, textured globs of paint, scratchy and adding dimension to the landscapes depicted. The painting in question is 26” x 20”, and a riot of color. Bright vivid chunks of red and oranges split the piece on a diagonal from the top left to the bottom right. The warm hues are broken up in the lower left corner by patches of cooler, purple colors and grey-blues. The rest of the piece is various shades of sky blues, and big fluffy strokes of white. Taken together, the entire piece can be read through a handful of different landscapes. Perhaps it is the prairie side on a fall afternoon with a view of the sky, or perhaps a hot summer day desert landscape at high noon.

Prayer to J1

This piece shows the versatility Lombard has incrafting the abstract landscapes. It easily could be one thing and yet at the same time it is possibly an entirely different location. What is most remarkable is Lombard’s ability to create such visually dense and deep texture patterns throughout the piece that photographs cannot do justice.

Prayer to J1 (detail)

All in all, Lombard’s SPIRITS of PLACE is surprising, pleasing, and feels like you have just spent a long day hiking up a mountain to get a gorgeous view of the valley below. The show will be up until March 28, 2023, and I highly recommend you go spend a few minutes of your time enjoying the scenery. 

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