September 4 – October 11, 2009
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO — Eight Modern is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, Linda Whitaker: The Floor of the Sky.
Whitaker was a respected artist who spent time in Taos before retiring from the art world 20 years ago. Exhibition curator David Hundley, a celebrated design consultant who has worked with Lexus, Ralph Lauren and Gucci and the exhibit designer for the recent show Hearst the Collector at LACMA, sees Whitaker’s compositions play out in front of him every day in New Mexico. He felt compelled to stage another exhibition of the artist’s rich, vital oil pastels.
“I bought two of her small paintings during her time in Taos, then in a move I lost one and lost Linda along the way, but I always remembered her skies,” Hundley said. “Then, miraculously, with my return to New Mexico I found Linda again and her skies.”
And, so, the art world again found Whitaker, currently a successful realtor in Murrieta, California, who stopped painting two decades ago because her work had become too personal and revealing. But as the show has taken form, Whitaker has come to enjoy this chance to show her work again.
“It is curious and odd,” Whitaker said of having a retrospective, solo exhibition, “but I have gone from reluctance to embracing the gift of exposure.”
As the years have passed, Whitaker’s oil pastels have continued to speak powerfully about the New Mexico landscape. In the style of early modernists such as Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove, color and form take on a raw intensity.
“Whitaker shows off her mastery in manipulating her extraordinary palette of colors to achieve heightened, psychological effects,” author Lorna Smedman wrote in a 1988 essay about Whitaker. “In her paintings, and black and white drawings, her compositions are fanciful and dramatic. Whitaker’s work is courageous, generous and affirming, a rare gift these days.”
Whitaker’s work was thoughtful and inspired, dealing with both the power of the Southwestern landscape as well as the human figure.
“In my work, I am primarily interested in giving access to not readily accessible realities,” Whitaker wrote in 1985. “That is to suggest other ways of seeing the mystery and magic inherent in everything. The world is emblematic. … I see my work as a process of contemplation and discovery with nature as the subject a synthesis of inner experience and transformation. Or, as Arthur Dove once said, ‘Maybe the world is a dream and everything in it is yourself.’”
While the art being exhibited in the show is from 1985-1990, the images still seem fresh. Whitaker is excited to have her work on display again, but chose to leave the show’s direction up to Hundley, who focused on her powerful landscapes.
“Linda’s style is not dated or tied to any chronological movement,” Hundley said. “They are beautiful abstractions of the New Mexico landscape that remain timeless and convey this unique landscape to the viewer. A photographer, looking at the works to be displayed in the show, stopped at one image, pulled out his phone and showed me the same image, Cerro de Taos, photographed from his home. “
Whitaker’s last exhibitions were in 1990, when she had a Wurlitzer Foundation residency grant in Taos and was featured in Montclair State College’s exhibition of Black Women in the Arts. She was included in many solo and group shows throughout New York and New Jersey in the 1970s and 1980s. Whitaker received an M.A. from the School of Fine Arts in Boston and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts.
Of her Wurtlitzer residency, Whitaker says, “Not to be too clichéd, but I had the quintessential New Mexico experience. New York City girl comes to the Southwest and falls truly, madly, deeply in love with everything: the landscape, the weather, the culture, the smell, the sky, the architecture, the horizon and the mountains. Life became very simple yet very rich, as I was able to wallow in solitude.”
With The Floor of the Sky, Whitaker is revisiting those halcyon days and the Southwest, and says she is open to whatever inspirations her visit for the exhibition opening may offer.
“I think you need to stay awake to nudges from the universe,” she said, “especially those coming from left field.”