From the Ground Up, Exhibit at the Magic Garden, Philadelphia, April-June, 2013, by Miriam Seidel
Like embedded journalists, Peter Kinney, Isaiah Zagar and Jeff Waring have made the work in this show as embedded artists, burrowing deep into the natural world to bring back its dirty, messy, mysterious secrets. They are landscape artists, working out of a great tradition, but also stretching that tradition past the old givens of horizon lines and three-point perspective in order to get where they need to go.
In Isaiah Zagars large-scale paintingswhich he painted outdoors, and with the canvas flat on the ground à la Jackson Pollockperspective has exploded, so that we see the grass, water and growing things as if simultaneously from above, beside, looking up and through to everything else. Peter Kinney collaborates with earth, making it his medium as well as his muse: his gestural shapes painted in mud morph into playful objects and earth-divinities, swirling like galaxies or curving, dancing bodies. Jeff Warings surfaces range from crusted to softly saturated, giving us the textures of bark and rain, while he also makes us dizzy with mixed sensations of near and far.
Each of these artists is after full-on communion with the natural world, the kind that leaves you surrounded and bowled over, forgetting the difference between being human, rock, plant or divine. In this they are connected to a grand undercurrent in American landscape painting, with Kinneys luminous moons echoing the moonlit landscapes of Albert Pinkham Ryder; Zagars vibrating leaves and waves recalling the rippling, visible auras of trees, stars and flowers in Charles Burchfields ecstatic watercolors; and Warings pared-down compositions suggesting the almost-abstract natural forms of the modernist painter Arthur Dove. Theyve brought back these emblems of their embedded journeys, inviting us to share in the communion. With the 44th Earth Day at hand, it is an invitation we shouldnt ignore.