Happy Chaos: Baltimore Painter Liza Hathaway Matthews Coaxes Oil and Charcoal into Active Line

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“Mossy”

 

The image pictured above — “Mossy” by Liza Hathaway Matthews — produces for me a sensory rush that recreates a soft and green landscape filtered with cool air on a gray day at the start of spring — but that’s not the end of the detailed story, because the scene itself seems to race past before I can take it all in, as though I’m seeing (and feeling) these seasonal sights from a fast-moving car, on a ride that reminds me nothing is as it seems.

Liza’s bold but organic-feeling color sense attracts my eyes to her work instantly; meanwhile, her compositions’ complex yet harmonizing design engages my thoughts.

In a painting like “Gazebo” (pictured below), for example, the artist’s gestural line-building and emotive texturizing — she works with oil and charcoal on large canvasses, up to 40 x 40 inches — link logically to the “controlled chaos” of Willem de Kooning (who happens to be one of Liza’s more important influences).

A 1990 MICA grad, majoring in painting and minoring in interior design, Liza says she also takes tactical inspiration from Helen Frankenthaler’s funky and vivid abstract works and, no shock, Mark Rothko, the masterful grandfather of large-paneled color-blocking mind-trips himself. Taking creative pointers from natural design as well — Liza frequents public gardens — she later studied plein air and still life with members of the Shuler School faculty.

I talked to Liza, a Baltimore native, about her local life, how she got started and what she’s working on now.

When did you begin to relish making art? When did you make your first commitment to the process?

My fondest memories growing up were my wonderful art classes. My art teacher at Garrison Forest School, Rufus Davis, had the best projects that allowed me to experiment with different materials. I vividly remember sculpting with soapstone. I was amazed that with a chisel, hammer, and other small instruments, I could make a piece of stone into a recognizable shape. My excitement grew over the years for art, and I knew I wanted to pursue it. At MICA, I continued experimenting with printmaking, sculpture, weaving, graphic design, charcoal, and painting.

Who/what are some of your other inspirations and what are you creating at the moment?

My recent work involves experimentation on a more abstract level. By working with oil, acrylic, and charcoal on large canvases, I focus on color, pattern, and texture. Everything inspires me — a beautiful landscape, fabulous interior spaces, an intricate pattern — and this helps shape my next color pairing or design. The greatest influences on my art are my three children and supportive husband as I paint amidst the happy chaos of family life.

Which are your top favorite/most inspiring spots to visit in Baltimore?

Sherwood Gardens, Ladew Gardens, and Robert E. Lee Park…the BMA and Walters.

To learn more about Liza’s work or contact her for a commission, visit www.orietsfineart.com.

"Gazebo"
"Melons"
"Pizazz"
"Safari"

 



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