Until a few years ago, Carolyn Meyer was best known for her landscapes of Napa Valley that show the vineyards and fields with an abstracted, almost cubist pattern. Living in rural northern Marin County and often painting en plein air, she had one particular place she favored for a heightened point of view. “There’s this one spot I’ve been going to for 15 years,” she confides. “It’s in Oakville, up the Oakville Grade Road that links Napa Valley to Sonoma Valley. The part of Sonoma Valley that you end up in is called Valley of the Moon. I stop at the top and look back at Napa from this high vantage point. It’s a breathtaking view where you look straight out and see this patchwork quilt of the valley.”
Besides the vantage points, what mainly preoccupies Meyer in her rural landscapes is riffing on the color harmonies—for instance, “How many variations of blue can you possibly put into a sky? Can you put in red? Yes, you can put in red, but it has to be at the same value as the blue sky. So you may have to knock it back to a red violet, on the cool side of red,” she reasons.
Star Light, oil, 20 x 20
Meyer’s paintings are dramatic, and so is she. Her work has elicited comparisons with that of the Society of Six, a group of Bay Area artists known for their plein-air painting back in the 1920s and ’30s. Meyer aligned herself with her own group of contemporaries for a while: As a founding member of the BayWood Artists, she became increasingly known in San Francisco’s North Bay. “The BayWood Artists go into environmentally sensitive areas and paint them to raise funds to buy these lands, so migrating birds can still go through, so animals can have access, so people can have access,” she explains. These days, though, “I just don’t have time to do it anymore,” she confesses.
That’s because her life changed a few years ago—and so did her art. In 2000 she began teaching full time at the Academy of Art University as the result of a divorce that saw her move from northern Marin County’s Novato to Sausalito, closer to San Francisco. This is when Meyer, now 47, also began doing cityscapes in a more abstract expressionist style, with jazzy explosions of color and movement. “You see the vantage point going down the street in the urban scenes, but it has the underpinning of abstract expressionism,” she says.
Wildly popular, these cityscapes—she’s sold 250 of them in the past five years—are what she mostly paints these days…
Featured in May 2007
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