Moss-Topped Stump, 2016
oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches
From the press release for the current gallery exhibition:
In the popular imagination, the forest is often little more than a setting: a site of savagery or renewal, a backdrop on which to project our fears and ideals. In Kristin Musgnug’s paintings, the scenery is foreground. Her canvases don’t depict orderly spaces, waiting to be populated or conscripted into some larger narrative. Instead, stumps and embankments jut high into our field of vision, obstructing the space beyond with otherwise inconspicuous grace notes: a backlit spray of maple leaves; a cascade of tangled roots; a patchwork of lichen on tree bark. The paintings abound with activity — snowmelt trickles, felled trees molder — but they are too concerned with immediate particularities to linger on sweeping vistas or make any grand gestures.
This isn’t to say that Musgnug’s paintings are purely literal documents, without invention or inflection. But she builds from close observation, from the challenges and discoveries of actually being there, rather than from detached speculation. Musgnug roams the woods at length looking for the right spot. When she finds it, she makes drawings on site, works up color studies, and takes photographs. She combines and supplements her notes back in her studio, and the resulting paintings blend careful attention with imaginative elaboration. Her colors, convincingly specific, are also slightly heightened. The stump in Big Stump glows ember-red in its crannies; the snow bank in Forest Floor with Melting Snow carries a sharp blue luster in its shadows. Her angles, too, are often gently amplified.
Mossy rocks and weathered branches lurch forward as the forest floor seems to swing just a little high.
Kristin Musgnug (born 1959, Buffalo, NY) received a BA in Art History from Williams College, MA, in 1981, and an MFA in Painting from Indiana University in 1988. From 1988 to 1990 she was an Artist in Residence at the Glassell School’s Core Program, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Solo exhibitions include the Marko Cepenkov Center of Culture in Prilep, Macedonia (1996); Uses of Nature, Galveston Arts Center, Galveston, TX (1998); Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS (1999); Un-Natural Histories: Paintings of Invasive Species, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR (2010); and the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center, Diablo Lake, WA (2015). Her work is including the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, TX. Musgnug lives in Fayetteville, AR, where she is Professor of Painting at the University of Arkansas.