Tahoe Hybrids by Katherine Sandoz depicts picturesque landscapes from Lake Tahoe, California. Sandoz’s works in this exhibition are, as the title suggests, hybrids: of natural elements, color palettes, emotional brushstrokes, and interchangeable natural scenarios.
The exhibit showcases twelve art works in total. The left wall of the gallery displays a large canvas mural entitled “Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe” painted with water-based media specifically for this exhibit. On the back wall a series of six canvas studies are hung in two sets of three, one set on top of the other. On the right wall a series of five numbered paintings are exhibited. The gallery windows are decorated with painted rocks and crystals that give the feeling of entering a created landscape.
Often inspired by the southern landscapes of Savannah and coastal Georgia, Sandoz switched coasts and traveled to Lake Tahoe. The artist, and former SCAD professor, focuses on natural elements and careful detail. She examined the terrain of Lake Tahoe, as well as the characteristics of the water and skyline, and translated her observations through painting. Sandoz’s color palette goes from whites and beiges to different tints of greens to saturated reds.
Although attempting “to preserve, catalog and celebrate the terrain of daily life,” the hybrids’ abstract and geometric shapes create simulated environments that seem to express nostalgia through minimalist means: nostalgia for a place that is deeply missed and needs to be remembered. The artist’s minimalism is showcased through repetition and sequences of frames. By reducing the whole panorama to repetitious and abstracted geometric details and using simple, technical titles such as “Tahoe Hybrids Studies”, Sandoz showcases her minimalist philosophy. At times, the mood is broken with a combination of different textures which evoke several different natural elements in the same picture. The paintings become a metaphor for a landscape in transition.
Sandoz’s works present a fusion of identifiable details of the lake, particularly in her studies, with abstract representations of what seem to be puzzles of a fragmented horizon. These fragmentations are re-composed through pieces of different sceneries. Each oval piece in the form of a river stone, or angular pieces alluding to mountains, act as a picture frame in which the brushstroke and the color seem to call forth a specific material: dirt, water, grass, rocks, etc. As such, the paintings become premeditated simulations of the place: hybrids. It is difficult to determine what is real, what is original, and what was imagined or interpreted.
Tahoe Hybrids’ highly textured, encapsulated, artificial landscapes appear as a sequence of calm, neutral, earthy tones. However, there is a breaking point: “Tahoe Hybrids #6.” The piece’s more aggressive palette of saturated reds and loaded textures provides a smooth transition between the large mural, neutral studies, and the more abstracted works.
Although a solid body of work in terms of technique and concept, Tahoe Hybrids is unfortunately limited by the gallery it’s in. A mural of such dimensions might have been better served by a bigger space. Here, the piece is overwhelming. Viewers may feel as though they are being forced to interact with it; they cannot escape it.
Tahoe Hybrids remains on display at Pinnacle Gallery until August 3rd.