Catch and Release
by Emily Warn



Viewing Beverly Rhoads' landscape paintings is akin to having a conversation with an angler who's been all day on the river. The yarn spun is less about the result—catching the big one—than about fishing, standing hip deep in water, casting for hours on river current, indulging in the rhythm of the activity. Similarly, Rhoads' pictures are less about the object-a finished work of art-than about the act of painting itself. In viewing her works we hear her conversation about why the natural world-the deep woods, mountains and streams-has possessed her imagination since childhood.

The conversation begins when she's out in the landscape, capturing it in its natural light in quick, spontaneous studies on paper. With these studies, she furthers the dialogue in her studio as she works and reworks the image, re-telling her experience in a variety of ways—moving between intimate and encompassing scales. To converse with what is vast, chaotic, and yet immeasurably beautiful, Rhoads uses the referential language of painting, filtered through her own dialect. Her "words"-fluent, measured lines played against saturate color and shifting planes, tell of the tangled geometry and fragmented space of deep woods. In many of her works, the reflective quality of pooled water serves to further enhance the feeling of shifting space by bringing the sky, trees and all else together into a single watery plane.

Water is, in fact, an apt metaphor for these paintings. Like visual memory, water mirrors what is, yet never entirely or exactly. A whiff of wind, or a turn of thought, and the image scatters, becoming a fractured reflection of what was. Everything in the paintings refers back to the seeing and recording—an act of catch and release. A wedge of white space or a jolt of violet in a field of dense green call attention to the language of painting as it simultaneously pictures a landscape. These white spaces and the hints of heightened colors point to the physicality of art, and are, paradoxically, what energizes the paintings, makes them as vibrant, as disorderly and in flux as the landscapes that inspired them.

Like the conversation with the angler, Rhoads' paintings temporarily satisfy the longing to recreate the perfect cast, when trees, sky, water, and self meld into a single plane.

Poet Emily Warn is author of The Novice Insomniac (Copper Canyon Press 1996) and three other collections of poetry. She has received many honors and awards including a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University (1992), Pushcart Prize Anthology Outstanding Writer, grants and poetry commissions.