Abend Gallery Fine Art, September 5-27
This story was featured in the September 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art September 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Paintings of cows with personality are an important part of Elsa Sroka’s solo show, entitled Connected by Color, which opens at Abend Gallery Fine Art on September 5 with a reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and runs through September 27. At least half of the show’s approximately 43 oil paintings feature expressive portraits of these gentle bovines. “I handpick the cows I paint,” Sroka explains. “They have to connect with me in some way.”
Included in the show are works from her Thru the Window series, in which she depicts closely cropped images of solitary cows staring either directly at the viewer or slightly off to one side. Sroka says she’s concerned with how the animal feels to her and the expression in its eyes. Relatively new to this series are paintings of multiple cows, close together, looking straight ahead with majesty and grace.
Until recently, Thru the Window works have been fairly small, with a typical size of 16 by 20 inches. For this show, Sroka has added a few larger pieces that measure up to 30 inches square. “People have encouraged me to work bigger, but I also wanted to experiment by increasing the size,” she says. “I like the impact of a big painting.”
Viewers of the show can also find paintings of cows in unexpected places. For the past six months, Sroka has been intrigued by the idea of seeing cows in unusual settings and is focusing less on their faces. HOUSE GUEST, for example, depicts a cow at the base of a banister-railed, carpeted staircase. In NIGEL a calf stands in the middle of a stark, empty hallway. In another work, a horned, brown bovine stands in sharp relief to the flat, abstracted suggestions of big-city buildings behind, and still another piece portrays a cow in a forest. “I started this group of paintings because I was bored with cows in traditional settings,” says Sroka. “My intention is not to make them too cute. I’m taking an ordinary subject and putting it in an unexpected place. I think people look at things more closely when they’re in unusual places.”
Twenty landscapes also are included in this month’s show. Varying in size from 8 by 10 inches to 48 by 48 inches, they are works that come straight from Sroka’s imagination. Although the artist grew up in Colorado and continues to live there, she’s not particularly compelled to paint the state’s lauded alpine landscapes. “I’m attracted to design and texture, like the texture of grasses and trees,” she says. “I store images of landscapes in my mind. I love water scenes. Colors, particularly rich colors, often inspire a painting.”
Sroka’s landscapes are spontaneous. Forms within a scene can be changed at any given moment. “Lately, my landscapes have become more complex,” she says. “Sometimes I radically change a landscape while I’m working. I let my intuition take over in the painting process. I trust my instincts. Flowers may turn into water.” —Emily Van Cleve
Featured in the September 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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