Judith Belzer’s Intricate Paintings Map the Tension Between Natural and Manmade Landscapes
Moving to the West Coast and living perched on a hill has had a profound effect on Judith Belzer’s paintings. Taking cues from a previous body of work that focused on natural patterning on an intimate level, Belzer has zoomed way, way out to give perspective on culture and chaos below, offering a bird’s eye view onto the ordered disorder of nature and civilization.
Belzer’s work has, for many years, been characterized by a concern with the profundity that can be seen at the smallest scale in nature. Looking at textures and details in ultra close-up, works such as Trunk Detail #2 (2006), depict bark, roots, wood grain, and tree limbs in a loving, warm palette. The work has evolved with time—later pieces such as Cracks & Fissures #14 (2009) and Cracks & Fissures #2 (2009) begin to play with proportions, as a cracks in bark begin to resemble gaping canyons or cavernous landforms, a clear direction towards her recent series “Edgelands.”
These newest oil paintings are loose turmoils of marks and stripes, which come together to form an image of a more colorful, yet distorted reality. Turns of hand describe roads, or riverbeds, or vehicles in a metropolis not too different from our own, which sits up against natural landscape; these two life forms push against each other in the ongoing battle of natural versus manmade. In Edgelands #30 (2012), shapes that resemble futuristic vehicles rush past each other in a formation that suggests as much a waterfall as crossing highways seen from above; the less detailed Edgelands #23 (2013), merely implies a narrative through matrix-like stripes of color.
The artist describes her invented land, not too far from our own, as one of “order, beauty and exhilaration...but there is also tension and disorder when these landscapes meet up, as well as a terrific energy in the friction the encounter produces.” Belzer’s omniscient eye works to impart both awe and fear of man’s development—impressed by scale, yet wary of its endgame.