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.