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Artist Statement
It would be easy to place the enigmatic landscapes of Tula Telfair in the tradition of American landscape painting. There is a formal kinship to the panoramic vistas of the Hudson River School that sought to record the majesty and open expanses of the Hudson River valley, while conveying the spiritual belief in America as a new kind of Eden. In fact, Telfair lives on a farm in upstate New York, a rural community surrounded by the quiet beauty of swamp land and rising mountains. However, these observations are not altogether accurate. Although inspired by her experiences in and responses to nature, Telfair's poetic landscapes are invented. While familiar, it is as if we have traveled their slopes and rolling hills before, they do not illustrate any specific time or place. For Telfair, the dislocation between memory and actual experience becomes a metaphor for the tenets of painting. Her fabricated landscapes become substitutes or perhaps symbols for nature, illusionistic representations that challenge us to question which is more real-nature itself or our image of it? Telfair began her career as a still-life painter and, in many ways, her landscapes are a natural outgrowth of her earlier explorations. Working from drawings, the artist rendered her interior scenes in a bold realist style with colors inspired by her observations of various outdoor environments. She then began experimenting with a multi-paneled format juxtaposing still life with actual painted landscapes, as if to offer a means to transcend the confines of the material world. The works in this exhibition reveal the artist's most recent experiments, in which her pastoral vignettes are either presented in multiples or combined with planes of pure color.
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