Aug 062008

Must there be something symbolic in watercolors depicting water? I feel almost impelled to find a hidden link —  and there isn’t one besides the relation made obvious by the words themselves. Watercolor is not the perfect medium — if there is one — for seascapes and scenes, but, as Holly Lombardo shows us, it is as good as any other. It’s particular way of drying on paper benefits some seawater characteristics, particularly the transparency and lightness of the upper layers. It interacts well with the white surface, reinventing it as light; the overall impression is of sunlit scenes or visual snippets of passing yet memorable moments.


The artist upholds a tension between the illuminated and the color-rich shaded areas. The crab is a bomb of color on a white sand background — will it explode, or reach the water safely? The sun contours the fish and the boats, creeping on the surrounding colors, making them small and unstable. The powerful illusion of light and the fast brushwork, especially in the boats piece, add a notable impressionistic touch. I have been looking at the boats for half an hour before noticing the big black blot beneath the closer boat — which I think proves that the color scheme works effectively, despite the lack of flexibility of the watercolor.

The crab and the fishes owe their liveliness to the artist’s eye for movement. The animals appear to be in motion, complemented either by an expressive shadow, or other fish. As fits such themes, the paintings rely on humor for thematic interest: the slant threatens to knock the crab off its feet and put the critter in a comic — for us — situation. The fishes, swimming around in a crowd, appear in a funny pattern that is both familial and familiar. The high viewing angle allows us to absorb the rich oranges. Despite the sea setting, the artist gives us an aquarium simulation.

I like these pieces for their harmony and their light, summery feel. The word “effortless” gets thrown about a lot recently, but there is definitely a dash of that ease here — achieved, no doubt, with considerable effort. The artist finds points of interest and complex shadow without making them the sole focus of the compositions. These paintings are about the waves — of water, of sand, of light. Holly Lombardo aptly condensed the warmth and spirit of summer into several sunny watercolors.

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