Show Preview | Howard/Mandville Gallery: Kent Lovelace

Kirkland, WA
May 11-June 3

Autun, oil on copper, 18 x 22.

Washington-based landscape painter Kent Lovelace makes his home on picturesque Whidbey Island, 30 miles north and worlds away from Seattle. Lovelace appreciates the serenity of island life as well as nature’s dramatic scenes that greet him every day. From his studio he can view 100-foot-tall fir and alder trees set against the majestic Cascade Mountains. Indeed, the isle overflows with potential subject matter for a landscape painter. At least once a year, however, Lovelace packs up his painting gear for a change of scenery and boards a plane for France.

This month Howard/Mandville Gallery presents La Bonne Terre: The Good Earth, a show of 18 to 20 oil paintings by Lovelace inspired by his trip last fall to the French countryside,  where he sketched on location in the Normandy, Provence, Dordogne, and Bourgogne regions. The show opens with a reception on May 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. “Lovelace’s luminous, atmospheric landscapes first grab viewers’ attention with layers of rich color and texture, and then continue to hold their gaze with a certain peaceful, meditative quality—something most of us are seeking these days,” says gallery owner Pat Howard.

Meanwhile, Lovelace says that what propels him abroad every year is the contrast between the landscapes of his native Pacific Coast and those of rural France. “I love the West, but it is so grand here that it sometimes overwhelms my aesthetics and interests as a painter,” he says. “I prefer the intimate scale of France.”

In addition, if he is wandering through the French countryside, Lovelace says he has access to a greater variety of landscapes more quickly when it comes to patterns and colors. “The palette I am drawn to in the east and south of France centers around softly hued cobalt and warmed, ultramarine-hued hills with constantly changing foregrounds of oranges, reds, yellows, ochres, lavenders, and various greens,” Lovelace says. “France has always struck me as offering a more complexly hued choice for foreground and midground compositions.”

In contrast, the palette on Whidbey Island in the fall and winter months consists of deep, dark greens with bright blue-greens, pale gray, and leafless trees and shrubs set against a white sky. The Pacific Coast color scheme is “striking” but different from what France offers an artist, the landscape painter says.

Lovelace began his professional career as a printmaker, working collaboratively with well-known artists such as Jim Dine, Jacob Lawrence, and Claes Oldenburg. Later, when he began creating landscapes in watercolor, his paintings at first displayed more abstract elements and he preferred to create large-scale works. After his move from Seattle to Whidbey Island  in 2005, he began working on smaller canvases and incorporating a more personal style—content to portray subject matter such as the play of light on a tree. These days, he may even paint some of the four-legged members of his family such as his two black sheep, Zippy and Zach.

Besides presenting Lovelace’s new paintings at the show’s opening, gallery owner Pat Howard is also introducing a new wine, a Bordeaux-style blend, from Pondera Winery, her family-owned, boutique winery located in Woodinville, WA. Each year the winery creates special wine offerings, with labels displaying paintings by gallery artists, known as the Salon Series. This year’s wine features a Lovelace landscape that captures a bucolic scene in France’s Bourgogne region. —Bonnie Gangelhoff

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Featured in May 2012.