Colfax Cutural Center 2004/February 6, 2004
WEEKEND: VISUAL ARTS
By JULIE YORK COPPENS
South Bend Tribune Staff Writer
South Bend artist
Victoria Webb discusses "Succulents and Burt Lancaster"
and her other abstract paintings, now featured at the Colfax
Since moving to South Bend from San Francisco -- after stints
in Atlanta, New England and abroad -- Victoria Webb has
noticed some dramatic changes in her painting.
"It's more horizontal," she says with a laugh,
turning to take in the progression of work now on display
at the Colfax Cultural Center.
Her densely packed compositions, inspired by such picturesque
West Coast locations as Golden Gate Park, have flattened
somewhat in response to her new Midwestern environment.
Her palette, too, has gotten a northern Indiana makeover,
reflecting the deep blues, grays and penetrating whites
of our long winters as well as the many subtle hues that
transform the agrarian landscape from season to season.
"There's a lot of green here - land and empty space,"
Webb says. "I respond more to the areas outside of
town, the farmland and fields. ... I find that horizon,
the sky and the expanse of the surroundings liberating,
in a way."
That sense of freedom infuses every canvas, from the loose
organization of space to the spontaneity of the brush-work
to the bold (sometimes improbably bold for subjects drawn
from nature) color choices.
"They come from what I see," Webb says with a
shrug when asked to explain how, for instance, flashes of
hazard orange wound up in a piece capturing a winter's dawn
in South Bend.
" As an artist, you learn to exaggerate and dramatize.
It's kind of like writing. I think nature is glorious; it
comes through to me that way."
There was a time, though, when Webb aimed for a more literal
representation. Her mother was an accomplished portrait
and landscape painter, and Webb initially followed in her
footsteps. Webb also developed a parallel career in film
and video editing, in this case emulating her father, who
edited movies and television commercials.
The two pursuits never exactly converged, but it's possible
that all that time working with animated graphics and live-action
video has nudged Webb toward a more kinetic painting style.
(If nothing else, after sitting at a computer all day, Webb
needs to pick up a brush and move.)
"It's just condensing," Webb says of her abstract
process. "Maybe the shapes are there, but the form
isn't as relevant to me as color. The expression of my emotions,
at this point, is more important. ... But I guess when I
look at the work, I kind of see it (the subject) right away."
There's an actual bowl of produce embedded in "Green
Tomatoes," for example, if the viewer stares long enough
at the lime and other parti-colored streaks in this painting
that radiates a luxuriant summer heat. And anyone who's
been to Golden Gate Park should recognize the towering cacti,
however stylized, in Webb's "Succulents and Burt Lancaster."
It's the South Bend-inspired images, though, that should
resonate most with local viewers, so long as they open their
imagination to Webb's heightened ways of seeing.
"Someone should be looking at it as they read poetry
and not a novel," the artist says. "Painting is
like listening to music. ... People shouldn't expect to
understand everything right away."