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Posted on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 5:44 a.m.

WSG Gallery showcasing stunning Marlee Hoffman works 'Of the Water'

By John Carlos Cantu


"Morning Light" by Marlee Hoffman

courtesy of the WSG Gallery

Marlee Hoffman’s “Of the Water” finds this local watercolorist consolidating the effectiveness she last showed us back in July 2009 in the WSG Gallery’s “An Invitation to the Moment.”

Hoffman’s technique is getting stronger. I wrote at the time of “An Invitation to the Moment” that there’s an attention to detail in her work that makes the art close to a sort of hyper-realism. The same is true of the work in “Of the Water,” yet the newer works are more deliberative.

Hoffman told local arts educator Martha Keller in 2009, "People should take a few moments with my paintings and walk a bit slower. All this happens when a person takes the time to enjoy the little things.”

Well, all the little things are back on display in “Of the Water.” But now they are supplemented by an increasing reverence for tranquility that gives each artwork the appearance of a captured reverie.

Each of the watercolor paintings in this set of ten artworks isolates a casual moment. They allow us (using Hoffman’s own words in her current gallery statement) to “see beauty that is often hidden in haste.”

Hoffman’s manner of working may contribute to this. As she told Keller in 2009, she “works from photographs and a lightly penciled drawing on paper” using “Winsor/Newton brand watercolors and a limited palette of five pigments: two blues, French Ultramarine and Cobalt; two yellows, Winsor Yellow and Winsor Lemon; and one red, Alizarin Crimson.”

As Hoffman adds in her current statement, “I can get almost any color I like from these (five) paints. They are transparent like water. I can completely change the appearance of the water in a painting with one thin wash of color.”

Hoffman's paintings are overtly homages to stillness and silence, yet their colors are exceedingly rich and lively—with strong contrasts in light and shadow.


"Of the Water" by Marlee Hoffman

This strategy can be seen in all the paintings of this series. But best is the memorable title work of the display, “Of the Water.” It’s likely no accident that this painting has been singled out for distinction, as it displays all of Hoffman’s strengths in an exceedingly serene composition.

“Of the Water” illustrates an attractive mute swan family at rest in a pool of water. The two adults are accompanied by a cygnet, and all three birds are the only representative elements of a painting that would otherwise be a sort of geometric abstraction.

The key to the painting is most certainly its attention to detail. The painting’s ripples restlessly run across the entirety of the work and they give the painting an internal harmony that contrasts with the handsome swans in the heart of the painting.

The swans’ reflection in the water complicates the painting with multifaceted rows of contrasting chromaticity. This strategy, too, creates a dynamic interaction inside an essential stillness, generating a dramatic internal unity.

Hoffman’s “Of the Water” is, like the best of her art, a complete worldview given over to silence. While the theme of her exhibit may be water in this instance, at its core it’s really a meditation on tranquility.

“Marlee Hoffman: Of the Water” will continue through March 24 at WSG Gallery, 306 S. Main St. Gallery hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; noon-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday; and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. For information, call 734-761-2287.