By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Birds hover over bovines. A carrot dangles in front of a bull’s eye. A bright yellow sunflower leans toward a resting lamb. In paintings by Colorado artist Phyllis Stapler, plant and animal forms converge in unusual compositions that create a subtle tension.
Her creatures and plants are prone to fly through the air, unburdened by the laws of gravity, and repeating shapes pop up in both the positive and negative spaces. “The shape of an ear of a deer may be the same shape as a petal of a plant in the painting,” Stapler explains. “Through content and these formal elements I intend to represent the interrelatedness of nature.” Viewers feel an exotic whimsy at work in her paintings, which contributes to their dreamy, otherworldly flavor.
But at the same time, Stapler can evoke an animal’s very real emotions—anger, sadness, or happiness. Her paintings are built up in layers that allow underlying paint to show through, and likewise viewers are invited to interpret the layers of possible meanings. A critic once described an exhibit of her paintings as possessing a mystical aura that is “leavened with wit and a love of sensuous surfaces.”
Stapler’s work is on view through June 11 at the Rocky Mountain Biennial, a juried exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Fort Collins, CO. She is represented by Ellis Crane Gallery, Durango, CO.
Featured in “Artist to Watch” June 2004