When we look at landscapes, whether in life, in a photo, or on a canvas, we see them through the lens of our own humanity. We carry with us both our personal experiences and those of being a human animal. Don’t we all feel a common sense of awe at the power of a waterfall or the fragility of a butterfly? There are undercurrents of meaning that nature triggers in our minds. It speaks to us. For me a day outdoors can be akin to a deep dive into meditation. I try to bring these feelings, these connections, back with me to the studio. I want to capture and share this abstract language of the landscape through my art.
As I begin the first marks on a work I am never sure what the piece is going to be about. I start with the “where”, a place that I have recently explored, and immediately lay down the first of the abstract marks. These are not intended to be interpreted in any symbolic way. Instead, they are a vehicle for experiencing the landscape rather than looking at it.
Early in the evolution of each work, I step back to tease out the meaning my deeper self has initiated and to push it more consciously in that direction. Even though the work is derived from a landscape, it is simultaneously a reflection of the life experiences that are occupying my mind. Remember that we inescapably see nature through the lens of our own life. The wind matches our mood; the water, like our voices, can murmur, babble, or roar; we can peer into shadows or walk in sunshine. Sometimes what we discover in the natural world can be stranger than fiction. Enjoy the game of guessing which parts of my work are real, imagined, or abstract. I hope it speaks the universal language that touches the spirit of our common humanity. Perhaps, it may reconnect with your own experiences, with the meanings wild spaces have to you and inspire you to get outside to continue the conversation.
Audra Urquhart is a painter whose work invites the viewer into worlds that are simultaneously real and fancifully abstract. Her roots run deep into the red dirt of Oklahoma and Western Arkansas where she learned to put her bare feet into the soil and to reach her hands up into the humid blue skies. Certainly growing up on Lake Eufaula imprinted her with a palette of wildflower yellows, earth oranges, fecund greens, water blues and the deep indigo of a night sky where you can still see the Milky Way. These colors immediately seize the viewer and the relentless movement keeps them actively exploring the work. You are drawn in among the water, plants, spheres, and abstract forms; and rewarded with details painted with the tiniest of brushes. Urquhart received her B.A. in Studio Art from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, a small highly selective liberal arts school that is big on thinking deeply and with the heart. Upon returning to Oklahoma she became actively engaged in arts education and community arts events, festivals, and parades. Her work has been featured in solo shows for Oklahoma City’s IAO gallery, The Tulsa Artist Coalition gallery, and in juried shows like the National Weather Center’s Biennial. After more than two decades in arts education, Audra recently resigned from her position for the Norman Public Schools to work full time as a studio artist. As much as possible, this artist likes to get out into state and national parks where she derives inspiration for her unique works. “Nature is full of astounding visual spectacles. I love weaving them into my art, then it becomes a playful challenge to figure out what parts are real and what is completely imaginary.” Her most recent accomplishment is the completion of a monumental work composed of 1000, two-inch watercolor pencil drawings which are loosely based on The Narrows at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. She currently splits her time between Norman, Oklahoma and Cane Hill, Arkansas. Each place serving as a home base for sharing the diverse landscapes that she loves to paint.