by Cynthia Hibbard
Caroyln Gracz scans the architecture of landscape with a deconstructionist’s eye.
In her current Shift show, Gracz has parlayed photographs from a family vacation to the Great American Southwest into fresh new interpretations of monumental and complex rock formations and sweeping vistas infused with light.
Perspective, a body of 23 finely pieced and softly hued collaged monotypes and seven encaustics incorporates select bits of photo transfer images into painterly new terrains that are at once familiar but completely unique. Visitors have told Gracz that in viewing her monotypes they feel like they’re standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon looking over and beyond–while they may actually be admiring excised parts of the canyon combined with highlights of Arches National Monument or Zion National Park.
Visitors have told Gracz that in viewing her monotypes they feel like they’re standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon looking over and beyond…
Rearranging fragments of her views from hikes that moved across ancient riverbeds, snaked up perimeter trails or overlooked deep gorges, Gracz’s newly built environments accentuate impressions of the overall majesty, mutability and the geologic footprints she gleaned from her experience of iconic rock monoliths.
…Gracz’s newly built environments accentuate impressions of the overall majesty, mutability and the geologic footprints she gleaned from her experience of iconic rock monoliths.”
“I considered my viewpoint constantly; hiking a valley floor, sitting on a perch high above a canyon, viewing a small fossil detail in a sky scraping rock wall and all the varying striations of color, light and history,” she said. “These elements were ever changing as I moved through the landscapes.”
The overall effect of Gracz’s presentation is both introspective and serene, and also delicately hued. “I wanted the palette to be soft and calming,” she said, “because I felt that was what it was like for me being in a big, calming and wide open space that was very sun-drenched.”
In one exception to her lightness of touch, “SW Panorama I,” Gracz layered a vermillion silhouette of jagged rocks over a pale backdrop to make the point of being at the heart of red rock country.
Gracz’s show probes deeper into the motif of deconstructed landscape that she developed last year in her concisely named Shift show, Deconstructed. There she focused on boldly colored, flat and juxtaposed shapes, textures, outlined forms and shadows to create the heightened visual impact of imagined spaces.
This time Gracz strove for brushstrokes, subtlety and depth in her efforts to unify and lighten all the complexities, stark contours and fine detail of a source that is overwhelming in the main.
A large diptych in the show, “SW Panorama IV,” encapsulates one aspect of Gracz’s intention by depicting the overall scope of a typical Southwest panorama. In it, she has layered the tops of intricate, rocky peaks against a blinding white sky—giving the viewer the effect of squinting into the horizon.
Alternately, in another series, “Untethered I-III,” Gracz closely inspects the outlines of rocks, lifting them out of their solidity and floating them in ethereal spaces, forcing the viewer to consider them anew.
In one of her favorite pieces, “Reaching Above the Valley Floor,” Gracz wholeheartedly cut apart the walls and sky from all the places she visited in Arches National Monument and rearranged the pieces as they spoke to her. Ironically, a swath of bright sky landed in the bottom right corner of the piece.
This year, Gracz and her family plan an extended trip to a beloved corner of Ireland. She knows, inevitably, that her art making there will have to grapple with green.