Many see the leafless trees of winter as depressing, but Rockville artist Juliana Netschert sees grace and gentle beauty in the winter woods. Bare trees and their shimmering reflections in pools of water caught in the low places of the forest floor fill her paintings, watercolors and drawings on paper that comprise March, on view at Adkins Arboretum through January 29. A reception to meet the artist will be held on Sat., Dec. 12 from 3 to 5 p.m.
It’s a good time of year to be reminded of how beautiful bare trees really are. Netschert has made a long study of searching out the fragile, hushed intimacy of the forest when its view is unobscured by leaves and understory plants.
For the past two decades, Netschert has visited the Potomac Gorge below Great Falls, Md., every March. Although she has a full schedule as the director of Marsha Mateyka Gallery, in Washington, D.C., and an instructor at the Washington Studio School, she hikes to her chosen spots whenever time and weather permit to draw the trees and vernal pools before the leaves emerge and hide the view through the forest.
Her ongoing series of drawings forms the basis of oil paintings done in her studio throughout the year. Reminiscent of Japanese screens in both their shapes and the delicate images of the natural landscape, most of her works are on long horizontal or tall vertical sheets of paper mounted on canvas or board, usually under two feet in either dimension.
In works such as “Lichen Bloom,” Netschert finds rhythm and energy in the seeming confusion of bare branches and trunks. Suffused with a glowing light green, perhaps a promise of the spring leaves about to sprout, the trees in this tall, narrow painting are poised in an elegant stillness stunningly reflected in the pond on the forest floor.
Netschert has a light-handed style that keeps her images fresh and active. Her drawings are spare, and her watercolors are quickly painted and full of gemlike color. She has a knack for capturing the feeling of the moment, suggesting details without getting bogged down in them.
Particularly satisfying about Netschert’s work is that she draws and paints different aspects and moods of the same scenes many times, making it possible to find the same tree, rock or pool in several of her works. Given her in-depth study of these sites, it comes as no surprise that she holds master’s degrees in painting, textile design and education, and is fascinated by the process of making and viewing art.
To add to the sense of discovery in looking at her many views of trees and vernal ponds, the exhibit includes photographs taken on Netschert’s visits. While she uses them for reference in the studio while painting, these photos add a special dimension to the exhibit, showing the sites as they would look at a casual glance. Seeing them, and then looking back at the paintings and drawings, it becomes clear how she has distilled a magical sense of activity and vitality that is easily overlooked.
This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists, supported in part by the Caroline County Council of Arts. It is on view through January 29 at the Arboretum Visitor’s Center located at 12610 Eveland Road near Tuckahoe State Park in Ridgely. Contact the Arboretum at 410-634-2847, ext. 0 or firstname.lastname@example.org for gallery hours.
Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of the Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Open year round, the Arboretum offers educational programs for all ages about nature and gardening. Through its Campaign to Build a Green Legacy, the Arboretum will build a new LEED-certified Arboretum Center and entranceway to broaden educational offerings and research initiatives promoting best practices in conservation and land stewardship. For additional information about Arboretum programs, visit www.adkinsarboretum.org or call 410-634-2847, ext. 0.