Whitney Knapp Bowditch ~ Drawings and Paintings of Block Island

Whitney Knapp Bowditch’s fascination with color, texture, and tonal contrasts infuses her new work in oils and charcoal drawings that will be on exhibit from July 6 – 18 at Jessie Edwards Studio on the second floor the Post Office building. The opening reception is on Saturday, July 7, from 5 to 7 pm.

“I am intrigued by color harmony,” Bowditch said recently, explaining her experimentation in pairing complementary colors and embedding subtle colors in unexpected places. For example, in “Harbor Pond Inlet,” the red roof and warm pink tones on the pond-side shed play off against the intense bold greens of foliage and water in the foreground. “Narragansett Wildflowers” combines colors, to similar effect, with strong greens set off against the soft pink siding of outbuildings. The deep orange tones of the roofs are complemented by the clear blue of the sky. In the foreground, all the colors come together in a tangle of wildflowers and tall grass.

For most of her oils, Bowditch paints on thick watercolor paper primed with an amber shellac. By leaving small areas unpainted, she allows the undersurface to create little flecks of yellow that attract and carry the eye to different aspects of the painting. In “Red Right Returning,” these little bits of yellow are an important complement to the grey tones of the wharf and Coast Guard buildings. The deep red of the buoy in the foreground bobbing in its purple reflection is picked up in the faded red of the roofs against the sky.

Though Bowditch is a representational artist, she likes to play around with abstract elements. In “Pebbly Beach,” she uses texture and color to blur the boundaries between representation and abstraction. The softer textures of the sea, sky, and green headland in the background brings the edges of the rocks in the foreground into greater relief, while swatches of blue and purple suggest rocks and boulders in a near-abstract jumble of shapes.

In “September,” Bowditch takes a minimalist approach to suggest figures on the beach in just a stroke or two of brushwork, towels and bathers suggested in a quick swipe of color. This work is one of two in the show for which Bowditch used a brush, as she prefers to use a palette knife. The other is “Clayhead Roses,” the only oil-on-canvas (30”x48”) in the show. Here, too, the variety of texture and use of color play against each other to harmonious effect. Roses, deep pink dots of color, pop from the heavily textured dark green foliage. The background is a smooth surface of sea and sky in soft tones of blue. In between, linking the two areas, the beach is gritty, the surf is frothy, and a subtle streak of pink along the sand and rock ties in nicely with the roses.

The six charcoal and pastel drawings also have strong tonal contrast and texture. “Clayhead Overlook,” Black Rock Road,” “Ocean View,” “Plover Hill,” and “Hollow Overlook” are dramatic views of grassy pathways, bluffs, and ocean, while “Rocky Shoreline,” a large (21”x34”) waterscape, has a smooth surface enlivened by a large wave about to crash into a placid tidal pool.

These 26 works take us on a ramble around familiar places as Bowditch explores color, texture, and tonal contrast to depict the rich diversity of Block Island.