The shape of light
Having grown up around ranches in rural Washington state, Cheri Christensen has an innate understanding of farm animals. These creatures have become the primary subject matter for her impressionistic paintings, but the works themselves are guided by the overall compositions. “What I really paint is light and shadow,” she elaborates.
This attention to technical elements has allowed Christensen to hone in on the shapes, edges and color. She also is able to experiment with painting everyday street scenes and restaurant settings that capture moments in time. Her upcoming solo exhibition at Mclarry Fine Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, titled The Shape of Light, will feature approximately 20 paintings spanning the three subjects. She says, “I wanted to keep the show a little more open than I normally do to allow myself to play and do little things.”
Among the works in the show is Spring Awakening, which depicts two chicks the artist photographed on a small farm. Behind the chicks are flowers that became more abstract as Christensen painted because she thought they competed too much with her focal points. Christensen says, “It’s my normal subject matter, but I’m trying to push things— where to have lost edges happening and where to keep it sharp.”
Napoleon Struts, of a rooster named Napoleon, was painted for a demonstration class in Fredericksburg, Texas. It was completed in Christensen’s studio where she added more controlled light shining through to the composition. “The photograph was really dappled with light everywhere and way too jumpy,” she says. “My idea of this one was to simplify the big shapes and make it less jumpy and bring your eye around with them.” In another work, Sundown on Ranch Road, Christensen concentrates on “that time of night when the light just dances along forms or grass.” She explains that as an artist, half of her job is finding scenes while driving through Texas, where the animals can appear in the right light at any moment. “When this guy came out, I was thrilled,” she says of the scene. “I was so excited that I took tons of pictures of him. I love it when they turn to look at you. They seem at peace in the moment and like they’re saying, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’”
The Shape of Light will be on view at the gallery July 20 through August 3.
Spring Awakening, oil on board, 8 x 10"
Napoleon Struts, oil on board, 12 x 12"
Sundown on Ranch Road, oil on board, 8 x 6"