Pierce’s triptych, Water, Land, Fire (2014–15) shows three views of a horizon line, which may or may not be the same landscape. At each side, the sky is depicted in gauzy light blue, while in the center it shines in a bright yellow. Spots of orange at the edge of the brown earth are suggestive of a distant fire, which by the third canvas has evaporated into white smoke mingling with the clouds above. “I don’t know why I paint fire,” Pierce once said. “There is a transformative quality, a beauty and danger that [coexist]….And I love contradictions.”
These romantic visions of the natural world resonate with the work of earlier painters from J.M.W. Turner to Mark Rothko: brushy applications of paint, atmospheric landscapes, and richly emotive colors. In Elements: Water, Fire (2014–15), another triptych, Pierce nearly departs from realism entirely, instead only subtly hinting at the existence of a horizon. Her surfaces are rendered in thickly impastoed brush marks. The third painting in the suite is made with crimson, bright orange, and flecks of lime green.
Other paintings use this same monochrome technique. Elements: Deep Water I and Elements: Deep Water II (both 2014–2015) both use textured expanses of variegated blue hues. The former blends several colors together in a glowing, grainy field. The latter is more painterly, with hashed brushstrokes crossing the surface. In Mist (2014–15) Pierce most closely approaches single-color painting, creating a vaporous gray surface. Another, similar painting, Night Sky II (2014–15), falls on the other side of the line between abstraction and naturalism, with a mottled gray surface punctuated with small stars.
In her work, Pierce captures the sensation of looking at and experiencing the natural world. Through paint and color, she depicts the beauty of earth, sky, and water.
“Carole Pierce: Sky, Land & Water” is on view at Seager Gray Gallery, Mill Valley, CA, Apr. 1–May 3, 2015.