With brushy sweeps of color and energetic line work, Baltimore artist Linda Bills summons the atmosphere of her family’s farm and her lakeside camp, two landscapes she loves deeply. On view Dec. 3 through Jan. 31 at Adkins Arboretum’s Visitor’s Center, Deep Snow and Other Memories presents abstract mixed media works on paper that explore what Bills calls the “felt presence” of the land. There will be a reception on Sat., Dec. 7 from 3 to 5 p.m. to meet the artist.
In these small, deceptively simple artworks, Bills deftly conjures the sensation of the open landscape, its freshness, cool breezes, and sunlight filtering through leaves or glinting off snow or blue water. Spirited brushstrokes of leaf green, lime and peacock blue intermingle with shadowy greens in “Wandering, Accompanied by Swallows.” Bright blue lines skitter across on top like a remembered map of an afternoon’s walk.
Bills recalls her two childhood years on her family’s Ohio farm as “a life full of investigating and exploring.” Its hills, fields, woods carpeted with wildflowers, creek and apple orchard and the storm that snowed her family in for two weeks left her with a deep fascination and love of the natural world.
Now, years later, she spends as much time as she can at her camp in rural Massachusetts, hiking, kayaking and watching the sky from the dock. In the warmer months, she sets up her studio on the porch facing the water.
Small and intimate, Bills’s works on paper are glimpses into her experiences of the landscape. With a joyful, childlike curiosity, she plays with various combinations of acrylic, oil paint, oil pastel, graphite, charcoal and markers, mixing drawing, painting and monoprint techniques. Sensuous washes in strong and subtle colors contrast with spare, angular lines. Her masterful command of color and line work allows her to create a sense of space and atmosphere with minimal means.
“Inspiration for my work comes from my everyday experiences,” she said. “I’m an absorber, an observer, an explorer. At camp, taking walks, being on the water, in the water, watching wildlife, the sky, clouds, all those things. Noticing the light of the morning, the moon, the deep darkness of night sky, brilliant with stars, the wind on the water and in the trees. I want to be immersed in the experiences of place.”
Bills teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art, where for the past 12 years she has been a Resident Artist for the Post-Baccalaureate, Fine Art program. She exhibits in galleries and museums across the U.S. and for more than three decades has focused her artwork on landscape and the natural world.
Over those years, she has honed her skill in conveying a sense of discovery of the natural world. Looking at these elegantly simple works is like taking a meandering walk through the woods and drinking in the nourishment that the landscape offers us.
This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists. It is on view Dec. 3 through Jan. 31 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or email@example.com for gallery hours.