Eva Struble at Jane Lombard Gallery

June 4, 2024

Through thirteen oil and acrylic paintings, two of which are painted on silk and linen, Eva Struble creates scenes of wild nature. The works in this show, Gravity of Small Things, are inspired from the artist’s hikes in southern California, capturing the natural landscapes she has observed. While Struble is perhaps best-known for her 2006 series exploring Superfund (heavily polluted) sites in Baltimore—including wood treatment plants, toxic waste landfills, and oil spill sites—this time, her emphasis is on the natural landscape’s organic, untouched quality.

Cordillera, 2024. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 40 in.

As a California native, I recognize the flora in these paintings, even if the yucca, palo verde, and coyote brush are often obscured by her psychedelic palette, where she transforms the orange and browns of the desert into violet and pink. Seen through Struble’s eyes, California becomes an ethereal fairy land.  Cordillera (2024), for example, shows a view looking down onto a pond, blanketed by a pink mist. The water reflects purple flowers, and the bank beyond fades into yellow. With this atmospheric variation in color, the desert landscape becomes radiant and dreamy, not the hostile, dry terrain I have known.

The show’s eponymous piece, Gravity of Small Things (2024), with rocks swirled in lavender and deep purple swaths of paint along the banks of a dappled river with a shallow depth of field, recalls Maxfield Parrish’s Dream Castle in the Sky (1908). Known for his use of bright color to produce whimsical landscapes, Struble’s series recalls the artist’s surreal natural settings—she would only need to add nude figures swinging or stretching in the foreground to make it an overt reference. Yet unlike Parrish, these images have not sprung from her imagination: she paints the places she has lived, invested in a political exploration of her natural landscape—not only of Superfunds, but immigrant farm workers, abandoned Navy Yards, the curated growth within gardens.

Gravity of Small Things, 2024. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 in.

Struble refracts political messages through her environmental painting and mixed media work, reshaping and conveying political ideas through her artistic medium. Seen through these lyrically provocative images, the California landscape is made new again. In this exhibition, Struble offers a fresh angle with which to consider desert flora. By playing with light and color, the series transforms the environment into lush topography scenes vibrating with life.

Eva Struble: Gravity of Small Things, is on view at Jane Lombard Gallery, N.Y. from May 3 to June 22, 2024.

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