There is an innate music in nature: leaves that clatter softly in a breeze, dollops of thunder-less white clouds that roll slower than freight cars across the sky, and stationary rocks and cliffs of tumbled roundness or jutted flanks and chiseled trenches. In it all, there are notes that the ear may not hear, but that the mind can compose into symphonies.
Abstract painter Karen Kauffman is keenly in tune to this environmental orchestra. Using her palate and tools in an almost stream of consciousness fashion, she connects the natural world and all of its shapes, colors and textures to the manmade world—and the result is homogonous, rhythmic arias that evoke new internal songs with each viewing. Perhaps that’s why she calls her current exhibit “The Rhapsody of Always-Is.” She can hear it, and is reminding you to listen.
The large-scale canvas and wood panel works are much like enormous doorways and windows into scenes of melting birch forests, compressing sediment and strata, and windswept embankments and riverbeds—all beating and riffing along with movement and vibration. But Kauffman’s eye is also focused on the nature of man-made environments, and with great ease she transitions into skeletal cities and buildings where inhabitants are eschewed for more primary concentration on line, form, and layer upon layer of construction. They are elemental, and surge from a power within their framing, not from any voltage strung up around them. There is also more lucid work on display, primal and primary, the splotches, drips and patches of color embody the purity of natural form, the simplicity of irregular structure—and just as with her other work, while your eyes are flashing with imagery, your mind will be pulsing with song. (Stacy Davies)
The Rhapsody of Always-Is at Cal Poly’s Downtown Center Art Gallery, 300 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 469-0080. Open Tues.–Sat., noon–8PM; Through Feb. 28