Isle Royale Reflection
"The experience as an artist-in-residence at Isle Royale profoundly affected my work. Continuing to develop work based on this experience has fulfilled a need—the need to return to the island often. I am sure to return to the place physically someday, but in the meantime, simply painting an image of the place doesn’t come close to recreating the encounter. It is necessary instead to return to the island in spirit, to recall the experience as completely as possible, with a deeper recollection than images alone can provide. In order for me to do this in my painting I must surround myself not only with photographs of the island but also with my journal, and with the watercolors and drawings I made there. It is most important to activate an awareness of everything the experience meant, an awareness that is best informed by memory.
The relationship between realism and abstraction has always intrigued me, and I found a natural synthesis of the two in the study of lichen patterns on the rocks at Isle Royale. These paintings were important links to paintings I had begun before I ever went to the island and are in many ways the most tactile and experiential works I continue to produce. I think of the surface not as a representation of landscape but as landscape itself, even though I am using the traditional medium of oil paint. I conceive of the surface as both map and terrain, full of pattern and texture, and full of the memory of walking the trail.
About the Artist*
Jennifer Williams was an Isle Royale Artist-in-Residence from July 28th to August 8th, 1998. She is a faculty member of the art department at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where she teaches painting. She earned her MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA in Painting from Indiana University.
Easily portable watercolors were a preferred way of capturing the light of a given moment in the several color sketches that Williams worked on at Isle Royale. Still another inspiration was the wonder of the aurora borealis seen for the very first time while on the island; “it was difficult to resist the challenge to express this astounding spectacle of light and mystery.” Both watercolor and pastel works fueled by this experience served as studies for larger oils completed later in the studio. View Jennifer's work on her personal webpage.
Last updated: December 13, 2019