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Open Spaces

I’m thrilled to announce that my newest body of work is now available.

"Open Spaces", a collection of mixed media paintings by Cathy Durso

“Open Spaces” is a collection of mixed media paintings on paper inspired by time spent outdoors. I have always loved spending time outside. From a young age, I was camping and hiking through the mountains of New England and upstate New York. My love of being in the forest, surrounded by mountains, has carried through and intensified since then.

Moving Through Forest 2“Moving Through Forest 2”

There’s nothing like the feeling of reaching the top of a peak, knowing that my own two legs carried me there. But it’s not just about reaching the top. It’s being in the forest, on the mountain. Breathing in the scent of pine; trampling over roots and rocks and dead leaves that have been trampled by many before me and will be trampled by many after me. It’s the history of the trail. It’s the silence of the forest. The color of the light; how it shifts throughout the day. The feeling of being surrounded by the elements of nature. Moving through it, powered by nothing but my own body, being one with it. In the forest I feel pure happiness. I feel at peace. I can breathe deeply.

Sunburst (detail)“Sunburst” (detail)

Since moving from Boston to Minneapolis last year, my experience of the outdoors has changed. If the forests and mountains of New England gave me peace, the vast plains of grass and farmland in the Midwest give me a slight sense of unease. It’s a landscape that is so foreign to me. In a vast prairie, even a single tree will bring me comfort. The lakes, however, are my saviors. They give me peace and ease to counter the discomfort of the prairie. Aside from allowing me to experience a landscape that is completely new to me, time spent in the Midwest has also made me realize just how much the landscape of the Northeast is home for me, just how much I connect with it.

Lakeside 1“Lakeside 1”

“Open Spaces” is my exploration of landscape and the elements of nature. Using acrylic, gouache, soft pastel, graphite, and oil pastel, I create compositions on paper that range from very obvious landscapes to complete abstraction. In addition to inspiration from my current surroundings in the Midwest, I bring in memories of past camping trips from different places throughout the U.S., as well as my longing for the landscapes of the Northeast, my home.

Four small works framedFour small works, framed

These works are all currently available for sale here.

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Small abstract landscapes

I’m calling these small works “abstract landscapes” even though they’re not all landscapes and they are varying degrees of abstract. In any case, they are inspired by nature – by rocks, water, forests, mountains – and I aim to express joy, exuberance, the feeling of deeply breathing in fresh air. Life, vitality. Memories of camping, hiking, splashing in a stream. The things that drive me.

Abstract landscapes by Cathy Durso

Abstract landscapes by Cathy Durso

Abstract landscapes by Cathy Durso

Abstract landscapes by Cathy Durso

Abstract landscapes by Cathy Durso

Abstract landscapes by Cathy Durso

Abstract landscapes by Cathy Durso

The three pieces below are on display through the end of 2016 at Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes, MN.

“Rushing River”
Abstract landscapes by Cathy Durso

“Distant Sunset”
Abstract landscapes by Cathy Durso

“Alpine Sunrise”
Abstract landscapes by Cathy Durso

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Repeating elements: scribbles

All artists have certain marks that consistently show up in their work. It’s often a mark that is comfortable and intuitive to make. For some artists it might be a slow, deliberate, and repetitive mark. For me, it’s fast and unplanned. Often done with soft or oil pastel, scribbling is a way that I add texture and spontaneity to a piece. In some cases it happens early on and ends up getting covered with layers of paint and other marks. In other cases it is the final mark to land on a piece, and ends up being the thing that ties the piece together. Here are some examples of scribbles in my recent work, both finished and in-progress:

Repeating elements: scribbles

Repeating elements: scribbles

Repeating elements: scribbles

Repeating elements: scribbles

Repeating elements: scribbles

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Influence of the outdoors

Influence of the Outdoors - Lake of the Isles sunset

Nature definitely has its influence on my work. Whenever I spend any amount of time outside I love to take it all in — the color and depth of the sky, the movement of clouds, the way tree branches hang down or protrude up, the colors in the clouds as the sun sets, the way green foliage looks against a deep blue sky. I frequently walk to the lakes near our apartment and study everything about the landscape there — the shapes of the lakes themselves from different vantage points, the ripples in the water (or the smooth, glassy surface on a windless day), the bunching of lily pads on the surface, the way the tall grasses and wildflowers move in the breeze along the shore.

Here are a few shots from recent walks around the neighborhood:

Influence of the Outdoors - clouds

Influence of the Outdoors - ginkgo tree

Influence of the Outdoors - Minneapolis summer sunset

Influence of the Outdoors - muddy creek

Influence of the Outdoors - trees and sky

Influence of the Outdoors - Lake of the Isles

Influence of the Outdoors - Lake of the Isles

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Going larger and more abstract

Cathy Durso - small drawings

The above image shows several of the small gouache/soft pastel studies I’ve made in the past few weeks. Many of these small pieces turned into pretty literal landscapes. I wasn’t planning that to begin with. I thought they would all be abstract, but I just couldn’t help seeing landscapes in them and running with it. I do like the landscapes, though I prefer to give a feeling of the landscape or nature, rather than literally depicting it. Here are a few more of the small works I completed before diving into some larger paintings:

Cathy Durso - small drawings

Cathy Durso - small drawings

Cathy Durso - small drawings

A couple weeks ago, I began to work on some paintings on 22×30 inch sheets of paper. Again, I didn’t have a plan for these when I started. I toyed with the idea of abstracted landscapes, and some of them started looking more literally like scenes from nature when I began:

Cathy Durso - large paintings

But I changed my mind, painted white acrylic over large sections of the paintings, and committed myself to fully explore abstraction.

Cathy Durso - large paintings

Cathy Durso - large paintings (detail)

Cathy Durso - large paintings

Cathy Durso - large paintings

It’s been a struggle to make these large pieces work. It was so easy with the small ones! These large pieces require much more time, many more revisions, and a lot more thought about the direction I want them to go. It’s not easy, but it is exciting.

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