Charlotte Jackson Fine Art<br /> 200 West Marcy Street, Santa Fe
Joan Watts's one-woman exhibition at Charlotte Jackson Fine Art is an unmistakable meditation on the horizon. In the book published in conjunction with the show (Radius Books, 2008), essayist Lilly Wei writes, "Light, created out of increasingly subtle modulations of color and contained within an imagined space [is] Joan Watts's primary subject." That may be so of Watts generally, but in this show it is the interplay of light against a dark landscape that captures the artist's vision.
The work invites the viewer to experience Watts's images as cool, clear, and meditative contemplations of the horizon. The choice of colors (blues, grays, and purples) undoubtedly influences this reading of Watts's work. The monograph reveals the artist experimenting with yellows and reds in the same compositional structure, but because they are not included in the show, these do not detract from the effect of landscape. The palate and chromatographic panels of color evoke deep, resonant waters and infinite skies.
And it works. Stripped of gimmicks like mountains and clouds, Watts's horizon just is. She accomplishes this best when her darker hues are weighted at the bottom of the canvas and allowed to graduate into white at the top.
Her use of deep blues is particularly effective in achieving this, whereas those with purples feel tentative and wispy. The rectangular, horizontal canvases evoke a horizon that seemingly goes on forever, and the square canvases take the viewer to an infinite space within.
A close study of Watts's brush strokes reveals an activity beneath the stillness; the undulating, scalloped manipulation of paint across the canvas creates an atmosphere of rhythmic patterns, which soothe and set the mind free. It takes time for an artist to reach such confidence; simplicity and just being are the rewards of a spiritual maturity not many of us have the patience-or endurance-to reach. Through this solo collection, Joan Watts reminds us that a tranquil mind in harmony with the natural world is a beautiful thing.