Weiss most likely would be the last person in the
world to describe herself as a mystic, but her watercolor
paintings - 30 years of which are featured in this
engaging "semi-retrospective" - have much
of the transient loveliness of a spiritual revelation.
For one thing, most of her images simply emerge
out of the act of art making.
Weiss works from neither sketches nor photographs.
She paints, wet on wet, flipping her sheets of paper
on a table in her Madison studio. Finally, she decides
which side to finish off, and brushes it accordingly.
result is a gossamer evocation of nature in many
of its idealized phases, a body of work that hovers,
tremulously undecided, between the poles of naturalism
and abstraction. Turner or Pollock? Weiss seems
not to care. Hers is an intuitive rather than a
control - critical, rather than physical - is very
much a part of her modus operandi. How else to explain
the family feeling that unites these poetic riffs
on fog and leafy branches, brilliancy and blur?
Clearly, there is an iron hand inside the velvet
glove that holds Weiss' brush.
internal ironies - underscored in some three dozen
works on paper, completed between 1974 and this
year - make her current show in the Allis' Great
Hall and Mansion galleries well worth visiting.
Chronologies are always arbitrary and often questionable,
but this one seems to suggest that Weiss has, over
the past 30 years, moved gradually, and with a certain
knowing grace, from big-scale panoramas to close-up
studies of natural minutiae.
a result, she has grown increasingly stylized, but
always within a framework of perceived reality.
No easy game, but she's played it well and quite
Among the early works, "Red Oak, Turning"
(1974) stands out. The winner of the prestigious
John Singer Sargent Award, the piece points up Weiss'
ability to orchestrate close-valued and delicate,
yet startlingly well defined, colors.
painting is not only a study of an oak tree turning
red in early autumn; it is a visible demonstration
of the power of watercolors, intelligently utilized,
to cement a moment as well as a mood.
later work, "Wild Asters" (2001), conveys
much the same delicacy of light and dimension. It
is, however, less an homage to a transitory stage
in the life of a great tree and more a tapestry
of muted tonalities, skillfully committed to water-soaked
By contrast, "Snow Laden" (1994) seems
more illustrational and less an evocation of a psychic
state. Similarly, "Dancing Pine" (1995)
is so convincing, in its understated emulation of
the act of seeing, that we strain to discover additional
detail - which just isn't there.
her work, Weiss, forthright and energetic yet private
and perfectionist, seems to have achieved the goal
of being both commercially viable and artistically
acceptable - no easy task in our harshly judgmental