Linda Cross at the James W. Palmer Gallery, Vassar College and the Beacon Institute of Rivers and Estuaries
The River at James W. Palmer Gallery
November 5 – December 17, 2009
124 Raymond Avenue
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
Reflections on the River at the Beacon Institute
November 14, 2009 to March 7
199 Main Street
Beacon, New York 12508
Poised between categories, Linda Cross’s evocative paintings are not only paintings but relief sculptures as well.She shows us what the Hudson River is like at this moment in time. Unfortunately, according to her vision, the great river is choking on industrial debris, although the beauty inherent in the colors of its stones, banks, and water still comes through in these paintings. The pollution has psychological as well as material consequences: it may be true that efforts are being made to clean up the river, but this does not stop our feeling that perhaps we are too late to save it. Yet Cross makes it clear that while there is much to be done, there is much to celebrate as well. Her shows at Vassar College and Beacon demonstrated her ongoing connection with the Hudson Valley, a familiarity based on her long stay in the area, and were timed to pay homage to the quadricentennial discovery of the Hudson Valley.
Familiar with the coast of Maine, as well as the mesas of New Mexico, Cross has always been interested in nature. She doesn’t paint so much as build her pictures, using stand alone paper and acrylic—as she says, “Rocks, cans, tires, and such are all hand formed.” Her close attention to verisimilitude can fool the viewer, who at first might easily believe that the objects are real. That is part of the reliefs’ attraction; they seem to convey the reality of water stopped up with manmade detritus. In Shoreline (2009), at Vassar, the viewer sees a foaming blue-and-white sea on the left; in opposition are small rocks and larger patches of brown, most likely a presentation of the darker banks facing the shoreline. Cross is perfectly poised between painting and low relief in this work, whose surface is active with water and stones and shore. It is a good example of her decision to both follow and parody verisimilitude, in textures and imageries that finally leave nature to possess the beauty of an imagined riverscape. Tivoli Bay(2009), a small relief painting in overlapping planes of paper, colored green and white and whitish pink, she shows remarkable subtlety. Here nature has occasioned unusual finesse.
But in Fresh Kills (2005), at Beacon, garbage is almost all we see. The work, thick with cans and rocks, operates on a sad principle of unstoppable decay. The work can hardly be called beautiful as the cans speak to the casual, ongoing contamination of the river. Yet Cross also finds ways to praise. Riverline Shallows (2009) consists of the kinds of greens and blues we associate with running water and the rocks don’t crowd or dominate the shallows. In Rift(2008), coppers and reddish-whites dominate the surface, which has cracks running from top to bottom; this close-up study of nature demonstrates Cross’s craft process and subtle feeling for color.
Given Cross’s ecological concerns, it might be expected that she would present a predominantly political reading of the river’s decline; however, she has chosen a more complex view, closer to the actual state of the Hudson River, whose beauty continues to resist contamination.