|Linda Gall, Loose Wires, watercolor, 6 x 9," 2014. Courtesy|
of Hammond Harkins Gallery
"Loose Wires" is the simplest piece in this show, but it contains the essence of the fascination her work holds for me. The wires are loose, but they are not disconnected. It appears that the stakes are loose and it is the wires that hold them together. The posts are firmly planted and the pieces of what are probably broken wood between hang loose. (They remind me of clothes pins.) They dangle before/above/beneath…what? In this painting made from observation, there is no setting, no context. Gall shows us what, but "where" is defined only by the blank page. Out of this, she nonetheless convinces of contrasting stability of posts and instability of the web between—as if this were in the Real World. Could be. Maybe not.
As a watercolorist, Gall is self-taught. Perhaps this explains why her command of the medium is so thrilling: Nothing holds her back. Her range is considerable: The colors are a mix of brilliant and saturated with dull; her edges run the gamut from sharpest to wet and dissolving. An exciting "painting without a net" quality brings every work alive—or, it allows the life of the work to seize you. These truly freehand paintings are done without any pencil plotting or guidelines. The daring delivery of paint adds to the thrill of her odd and ambiguous subjects.
|Linda Gall, Troubadours, Watercolor, 17 x 36," 2014. Courtesy of Hammond Harkins Gallery.|
Troubadours, above, is quintessential Gall. On an unpainted (empty?) sheet of paper, a utilitarian farm structure in disrepair sits athwart us and a Rococo figurine of a boy and a woman with a guitar faces us directly. The originals for the structures in Gall's work inhabit the landscape around her New Mexico home. They have been observed and we assume that the likenesses are genuine.
|Linda Gall, Annie O. Acrylic on panel, 20" x 24." 2014? Image courtesy|
of Hammond Harkins Gallery
In another essay about this show, I noticed that these represented china pieces were called "tiny figurines," as if they are equivalent to the things from which she modeled them. They are, of course, not tiny at all, unless we agree that the buildings are tiny too. Otherwise, the figures are as large as people in relation to the buildings that we take to be so real. Aren't both real realistically copied? It is up to us to reconcile this and to devise a world from these elements she's posited just as she has against a page with nothing else to refer to. Gall has messed with us, knowing how our expectations of scale will make us see what cannot be and take it to be reality.
The paintings are filled with implied anachronism, impossible placement of global elements, and wildly skewed scale. The pictures can be Toyland or even Christian creche tableaux where the figurines stand not so much for persons as for spiritual figures with significance enhanced by humble architecture. I'm intrigued by the figure in Annie O. with her innocence and Marian blue, waiting for something to happen in that stable...
|Linda Gall, Wagon Train, acrylic on panel, 24" x 36." Image courtesy of Hammond Harkins Gallery.|
|Linda Gall, Something of a Pile of Posts, watercolor, 6" x 9." Courtesy of Hammond|
I think this is why I prize so highly these tiny, simple watercolors with very little painted on them. Like Loose Wires at the top, Something of a Pile of Posts is divested of irony, drama, implication—of almost everything but gesture and the emotion that comes with it. A pile of posts. Clods, unfeeling, dumb. But here they have tendency, yearning, and, despite their weathered years, an aspiration or urge to grow. Gall loves narratives, and I guess there is one in a painting like this, but it is a concise one, and it is straight faced. The poignancy isn't disguised by the color and wit.