At first glance, the luminous landscape paintings by Kingston-based Jane Bloodgood-Abrams seem to be all about honoring the traditions of the 19th-century Hudson River School painters. But while she does sometimes seek to achieve just that effect, at other times the artist is after something different. “I get restless if I do all of one thing,” she says. “I like to explore using the landscape in different ways. Sometimes I see something that I totally want to be echoing the Hudson River School, and have a more traditional look to it, and other times I want to have something that looks more iconic and more contemporary.”
The latter is achieved through various artistic devices. A landscape is usually rectangular, but Bloodgood-Abrams likes to experiment with a square format. “That’s what kind of adds the more contemporary edge to the work,” she says. “Sometimes there’s a centrality to the image; a central light or a central cloud. I have some pieces that I call ‘cloud icons’ because there’s a focus on the massiveness, the power and life-of-its-own that some of these large thunderheads get.”
Bloodgood-Abrams will exhibit some of her Hudson Valley landscape paintings in a group show at the Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson this month. “Landscapes and Bodyscapes” will juxtapose her work with landscapes by Dan Rupe and figure paintings by Bruce Sargeant (one of painter Mark Beard’s six fictitious personas, in this case emulating the style of John Singer Sargent). An opening reception will be held on Saturday, November 8 from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will be on view until December 14.
The show is an opportunity for Bloodgood-Abrams to do some bigger pieces, she says, with the entire front room at the gallery devoted to about 12 of her paintings, all done within the last year or so and almost all of them with the Hudson River in the composition. “I usually have the river in some of my work, but with this show in particular I was looking to go back and do some views I hadn’t done in a while. Some pieces are of a specific place; others are more imagined, focusing on the mood.”
The works range in size from small eight-by-eight-inch paintings to large three-by-five-foot canvases. Some are wide, long scenes while others will have the square format.
Bloodgood-Abrams has been represented by the Carrie Haddad Gallery for some 25 years now, she says, “and what’s great about dealing with Carrie is that she’s very supportive of the artist. She’s just wonderful; I feel like I have more freedom to explore different motifs. It’s nice to feel that freedom, so I can do something a little less traditional, or a little more evocative.”
Bloodgood-Abrams was raised in New Paltz. When asked about how she developed her interest in the landscape of the region, she says that she spent a lot of time outside on her family’s eight acres while growing up, but when she first got to college – she did her undergrad degree at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, in 1985 – she was doing abstract, figurative work, Neo-Expressionism. But after she earned a Master’s degree in Fine Art at SUNY-New Paltz three years later, she found herself having more opportunity to explore the area and “getting a real rush” from being able to see some of the same places that the Hudson River School painters had depicted and finding them “still very much the same.”
She realized, she says, that “their work struck the same chord that I was connecting to in nature: the light, the breathtaking moments – usually transitory – and that became my personal work in a very different way from my previous work. I was trying to recreate some of those moments that I was experiencing in nature.”
There has been an evolution in her work, she says, although that might not be evident to the casual viewer. But in comparing works done years ago to those done now, “There are still some [paintings of] specific places, but more and more the work has gotten to be about the mood, or the light, to kind of capture the feeling using the landscape elements as a tool to convey those ideas. It depends on the show, the location [the work was painted at] and what I’m trying to do.” And while she’s “probably considered one of the more traditional artists” represented at the Carrie Haddad Gallery, she adds, “I still tend to show work there that looks – to me – more contemporary than the rest of it.”
“Landscapes and Bodyscapes” opening reception, Saturday, November 8, 6-8 p.m., free, through December 14, Carrie Haddad Gallery, 622 Warren Street, Hudson; (518) 828-1915, www.carriehaddadgallery.com.