Review: Colette Wright Adams Explores the Calming Essence of Nature in Her Exhibit Harvest

In the world of contemporary painting, artists often create works that are inspired by past artistic movements. One genre that has deep roots in the past but continues to inspire contemporary artists is landscape painting. Although landscape art has a long and storied history, many contemporary landscape artists have made the genre even more vital as we now face numerous environmental issues. As natural habitats decrease across the globe, contemporary landscape painting celebrates not only the beauty of nature but also the critical role it plays on this planet.

Colette Wright Adams is a contemporary landscape artist and her current exhibition, Harvest, is on display at the Austin-Irving Branch of the Chicago Public Library. It is also worth noting that she is a resident artist at the North Park Village Nature Center.

Colette Wright Adams, Companion #3
Colette Wright Adams, Companion #3. Gouache on paper. Photo courtesy of the artist.

On display are 40 works that depict various scenes from the North Park Village Nature Center. Her command of color is at the heart of many of her works where she conveys a mood as well as evoking emotions within us. Whether the colors in her works are muted or vivid, she sets an inviting tone that allows us to interact more deeply with her art.

In a number of her works, there is the element of enchantment at play. She shows us how the woods can be a magical realm where myths, fairy tales, and fables can come to life. Good examples of this are Companion #3 and A Walk in the Woods where we experience the hidden wonders that nature can offer us. Even in our most jaded state of being, we can still feel that child-like wonder as Adams captures awe-inspiring and sublime characteristics of nature.

While nature can have a tranquilizing effect on us, there is also the mysterious and foreboding aspect to nature. Adams shows us the mysterious side of nature in Watery View #2 and the darker side in Night Woods. In both of these works, we get that uneasy feeling that there is more going on in these scenes than meets the eye. Is it physical danger that we fear? Or do the mystery and the darkness represent the fear of the unknown within our psyche?

Colette Wright Adams, Watery View #2.
Colette Wright Adams, Watery View #2. Watercolor and charcoal on paper. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Another one of Adams’ strengths as an artist is how she frames various scenes—from larger works on canvas to smaller works on paper. Her scenes are never too busy or over-crowded. Adams avoids the pitfall that some contemporary landscape artists make by trying to place too much detail in one scene. Adams instead creates breathing room where details and colors come to life. And by giving us less, we can almost experience a sense of movement in her works such as tree branches swaying against the wind. There is also a beauty to the stillness in her works, particularly her winter scenes; she shows the stark beauty of bare trees against a grey sky with snow on the ground. Looking at her winter scenes, one can almost experience the cold environment—snow crunching under foot and the frosty breath when one exhales.

Also intriguing are window views that show outdoor scenes of nature from the inside of a room. In these works she has potted plants framing the interior of the window that act as a reminder that while there is a vibrant world of nature outside, we can also cultivate nature inside our home as well.

Colette Wright Adams, A Walk in the Woods.
Colette Wright Adams, A Walk in the Woods. Oil on canvas. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Because all the works on display were created at the North Park Village Nature Center, this exhibition reminds us how we all can easily escape the noise and bustle of the city by visiting one of the nature centers or forest preserves that are located in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. We don’t have to take a long road trip to commune with nature.

Harvest is a captivating exhibition because Colette Wright Adams presents vibrant scenes that show the beauty of nature in different settings and in each of the four seasons. Although her works are representational, there is a strong current of self-expression as she integrates her own emotions with her appreciation of nature.

This exhibition will be on display through June 29 on the second floor of the Austin-Irving Branch of the Chicago Public Library, 6100 W. Irving Park Road. Hours: Monday and Wednesday: 12 to 8pm; Tuesday and Thursday: 10am to 6pm; Friday and Saturday: 9am to 5pm; and Sunday 1 to 5pm. For more info, call 312-744-6222.

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Thomas Wawzenek