Liz Zorn likes a square canvas. Not always, of course, but more often than many artists, she confines her compositions to a canvas measuring the same on every side. Her works as seen in “Liz Zorn Solo Show” at 124 West Pike Street Gallery in Covington now through May 26th are seldom enclosed in frames and are perfectly sufficient without that addition.
These are complex abstractions in which the shapes and the interactions of the muted colors are the subjects at hand. Brush strokes are inconspicuous. The works are pale as beiges, grays, whites predominate as over-all colors, setting off what could best be described as lines and dots and smudges . And quite a lot goes on in Zorn’s compositions.
“Painting is like good cooking,” she has been quoted as saying. The important thing is to “just paint.” She herself has linked her work to the musical term “andante,” meaning “a moderately slow temp, a walking pace.” She goes on to say “Building layers of oil paint takes time, you cannot force it. The work demands that one move at a slower pace. It allows for reflection, but not at the expense of intuition and spontaneity. There is a thread of Shoshin (the Zen Concept of beginners mind) that runs through all of my work. It is to approach everything with new eyes, open to a world of possibilities.”
Zorn is clearly interested in new possibilities. For instance, a pair of 12 inch by 12 inch paintings from what she calls her Rise Series are described as “oil on birch.” Oil paint is her usual medium, the ground of birch is not. These particular paintings may or may not be in response to sunrise; they are sufficient in themselves. Texture, which she considers “like another color in my palette,” is an indispensable element here and elsewhere, and painting itself could be seen as the subject of her work although her titles sometimes suggest more concrete aspirations.
One of those titles, “Red Bull Dinosaur,” is extremely specific but the painting it labels keeps the dinosaur more or less under wraps. It has her usual smokey background, is enlivened by interesting shapes that might suggest an animal; there’s something that is almost a building – but really the point of all this is the relationship of the shapes and colors within the work. The title is expendable. Another title, “No Talking on the Bus,” is applied to a painting that has a definite sense of motion from a series of broken horizontal lines; the viewer, putting all this together, is apt to smile.
The paintings are often paired, each bolstering the other with echoes of shapes and colors. Smaller works are more likely to be formally framed, but for larger ones the painted canvas itself is folded around an interior frame. She allows herself stronger colors in the smaller works.
Zorn, who lives in the river town of Morrow, Ohio, is a long-established multi-media artist who focuses on mixed media painting but also has worked in printmaking and photography and writes music. Now retired from a full time office career, she cites as her strongest artistic influences both abstract expressionists and color field artists, with special mention of Robert Motherwell, Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly and James M.W. Turner. It’s interesting to look at her works with those artists in mind, but more interesting is to simply enjoy her paintings for themselves.
The final day of the exhibition, Saturday May 26th, will feature a closing reception from 1 to 5 p.m. with music, light bites and the opportunity to meet the artist. The public is invited.