Mary Vernon

Color transforms the assertion of a formal plan. While geometric arrangement determines the field in these paintings, it does not control color, and it is not at war with color. Color takes on what Derrida called the “second navigation” of the work (The Truth in Painting, 1987). In each of these paintings, the geometric pattern builds the painting, and color completes it by transforming it. I am a landscape painter, and I work out, in these paintings, the identity of landscapes, plants, and certain spaces. The long tradition of landscape painting is one of conceptual positions and ideas revealed through images of the world. Still-life, as an intimate form of landscape, explores the same concerns.

I grew up in the Pecos valley, in Southern New Mexico. The land outside the valleys is desert land, of subtle and nuanced color, its variation great, its values pale, its shadows intense and chromatic. The painted, wooden Santos bore saturated, matte-finished coats of paint, and the Immaculate Conception statue in the local church had a blue neon halo. The rocks my father used to build our house held grays worthy of Whistler. In the valleys, the wind more often than not tossed the leaves of the willows, apple trees, pecans, and lilacs about in the air so that all the complex greens were dulled and robbed of their glossy surfaces. The weather announced itself days ahead of time by minute changes in the sky. Gardens of hollyhocks, daisies, and old asparagus grew quickly and made dense patterns. That landscape taught me what to look for.

Mary Vernon, Professor of Art and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, Southern Methodist University, teaches courses in drawing, painting and color theory.

She was born in southern New Mexico, educated at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. She has served as the U.S. State Department Visiting Artist in Chile (2003), and has shown her work in France, Hungary, and Kazakhstan, as well as in the United States. She is represented by Valley House Gallery, Dallas.