Local artist Carlyle Wolfe captures beauty, rhythm of natural world

Posted on Aug 31 2017 - 8:01am by Jacqueline Knirnschild

Just as summer winds down, Southside Gallery is exhibiting the intricate beauty of nature.

“Green,” Oxford artist Carlyle Wolfe’s seventh exhibition at Southside, is on display until Sunday. The artist’s reception is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Wolfe has always been inspired by the natural world. Over the past 15 years, she has been making line drawings of plants and using the cutout silhouettes as stencils for paintings.

In her “Green” collection, not only does Wolfe build upon this accumulation of stencils but also includes, for the first time, an on-site stainless steel installation and a series of “shadow paintings.”

Wolfe said she has always been drawn to the details of the natural world because the more closely one examines nature, the more one sees.

“Green” by Carlyle Wolfe is featured at Southside Gallery. Photo by Billy Schuerman

“There’s infinitely more information and substance on a microscopic level,” Wolfe said. “When you’re drawing plants, you’re connected to this rhythm that’s part of a much bigger rhythm of seasons changing and years passing.”

Ever since Wolfe began drawing flowers, she said the rest of the work “grew from there.”

“My work is a description of the landscape. If you’re cultivating a garden, it takes a long time for things to grow and change and mature,” Wolfe said. “And I feel like that same sort of thing has happened in my work.”

Wolfe said that over the years her vision has become more sensitive and she understands plants better.

“You’d sort of think drawing plants for 15 years gets monotonous, but it actually seems to get more and more interesting,” Wolfe said. “I think that’s a reflection of what’s in nature.”

Each painting focuses on a specific moment in time when Wolfe experienced a color group and lighting environment that was particularly influential to her. In addition to paper, in the past year, Wolfe has also begun working with stainless steel to create stencils.

“Stainless steel is a lot like the cut paper because it gives me that plainer shape, and the cut-out is so much more durable, so it gives me a lot more different options,” Wolfe said.

“Green” also features “shadow paintings” in which Wolfe paints traced shadows cast from natural light. Her “shadow painting” concept originated when she was in graduate school at Louisiana State University.   

“It was early spring, and I arrived in Baton Rogue, and it was in full lush bloom – it just felt so right,” Wolfe said. “I was sitting in a coffee shop, and there were just the most beautiful shadows on my sketchbook, and so I started tracing them, and this body of work grew out of that.”

Wolfe said she loves to put her panel on an easel and search for intricate, hidden shadows that may not be as obvious.

“With these paintings, I think of tapestries,” Wolfe said. “These lines are distinct colors that add up to something different.”

Wil Cook has been the director of Southside for the past 13 years and thinks this is Wolfe’s most impressive exhibit yet.  

“Over time, the scale of the work has gotten a lot larger,” Cook said. “Conceptually, her work is a lot stronger, and there’s a lot more depth to it.”