Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Worlds Combine

Infinite, sublime, transcendent, enduring, timeless. These are a few of the words often used to describe landscapes.

Mai Wyn Schantz rejects such nostalgic approaches to this type of artwork. Instead, the Wisconsin native-turned Colorado resident injects her paintings with a sense of time, immediacy and contemporariness.

About ten years ago, around the time she graduated from the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design in Denver, Schantz began painting on aluminum. The material provided a frame for her scenes of nature, but it also did more. It placed those scenes in the context of the present-day world.

The juxtaposition isn’t meant to be jarring. Says Schantz in her artist statement, “Despite our fast-paced, industrialized world, we are still innately tied to the land and continually seek to reconnect.”

Her work is about finding a balance between the seemingly opposite forces of the natural and manmade worlds. “It’s the idea that the two can be integrated and the two can be beautiful together or on their own,” she says.

As Schantz has developed her art, she’s made some changes. More aluminum shows through her paintings, say in the space between the trunks of trees. And she’s been focusing on closer-up views of nature than in the past. Instead of vaster and grander imagery, she’s finding—and showing—beauty in water streaming over rocks and lily pads floating on ponds.

“It’s just about stopping and looking at something a little closer,” she says.

Schantz has also been working with a new modern medium: stainless steel. It’s heavier and more durable than aluminum, she says, and it’s more reflective, allowing light to play a stronger role in her works.

A series of Schantz’s recent paintings will be showcased in August at Grace Chosy Gallery. She hopes viewers understand her contemporary approach to the landscape tradition as well as to nature.

“When I did sunsets, people used to say it made them look at skies differently,” she says. “I hope they look at trees a little closer and appreciate the simple beauty.”

Schantz’s work will be showcased at Grace Chosy Gallery, 1825 Monroe St., August 7–29. Gallery hours are Tuesday–Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. For more information, call 255-1211 or visit

Images courtesy of Mai Wyn Schantz.

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