Wetlands and Landscapes, Pastel Drawings and Oil Paintings by Emmy Savage, on View at Adkins Arboretum

It’s the luscious variety of colors that draw you into Emmy Savage’s pastels and small oil paintings. Her wide, open marshlands bordered with lines of trees and slices of glistening water are familiar scenes on the Eastern Shore, but this Chestertown artist finds an amazing abundance of colors and light in them.

Savage’s exhibit is on view at Adkins Arboretum’s Visitor’s Center through July 30. There will be a reception to meet the artist on Sat., June 19 from 3 to 5 p.m. in conjunction with the Arboretum’s 2010 Outdoor Sculpture Invitational.

This series of pastels and oils was inspired by landscapes Savage visited at Eastern Neck Island, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, and Colchester and Chino Farms. A plein air painter who earned a Post Baccalaureate Certificate from the Maryland Institute of Art and a Master of Fine Arts in painting from the University of Iowa, Savage has an especial skill for capturing the light, color and energy of a place.

The late afternoon sun tinges the wetlands with warm colors in works such as Wetlands 3. Marsh grasses spread up from the foreground of this large pastel in a broad field of animated strokes of orange, peach, cinnamon and beige mixed with lime green, olive, sienna and shadows of purple. Still deeper purple shadows spread under a row of leafy trees that stand beside a sliver of bright turquoise water beneath a creamy sky.

“The first painting I ever really fell in love with was a simple Monet I saw at the National Gallery when I was about seven,” Savage recalled. “It was really just simple bands of color, very abstract.”

Much as Impressionists, such as Monet, simplified details in their paintings to bring out plays of light and color, Savage works to make her compositions clear and spare with an exhilarating feeling of broad, open space. Given her care in finding the essence of each scene, it’s not surprising to learn that she is also a poet with a master’s degree from The Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars.

The condensed clarity of Savage’s small oil paintings has the concise feeling of a poem. In shades of blue, earthy browns and ochres, each of these tiny paintings elegantly describes the character of a particular stretch of marshland in a very simple, understandable way.

“It’s like haiku,” she said. “It’s not complicated, but it’s profound.”

This particular series of works focusing on wetlands began with a large pastel drawing Savage exhibited in Adkins Arboretum’s 2009 Art Competition. Although she has painted many other kinds of landscapes, from homes nestled in rolling hills to abstract drawings, she found an exciting sense of expansiveness and promise in the area’s low-lying wetlands.

“Horizontal landscape is something I’ve loved ever since I lived in Mexico in the 1970s,” she said. “It’s something I keep coming back to—the overwhelming horizontal under the wide sky—that light and color. The horizontal has a quality of potential and adventure that’s out there to be explored.”

This show is part of Adkins Arboretum’s ongoing exhibition series of work on natural themes by regional artists, sponsored in part by Caroline County Council of Arts. It is on view 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 info@adkinsarboretum.org for gallery hours.

Adkins Arboretum is a 400-acre native garden and preserve at the headwaters of 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.