By Alec Clayton
Note: When parts of this article were published in two different publications, OLY ARTS and the Weekly Volcano, I decided publishing it on my blog was duplicitous, but on second thought, I think it needs to be published as a single article.
Debra Van Tuinen’s latest paintings in oil over acrylic are the culmination and apotheosis of a long and ongoing career in art. They are large (many up to 88 inches in height), bold and brimming with color. These larger paintings are from her latest series. Each painting in the series — and you can expect to see as many as 20 to 25 of them in this spring Arts Walk, plus many of her smaller works in encaustic.
Typically the larger paintings are two colors only, swathes of a bright color such as white, yellow, red or blue, over a field of a darker color. Free flowing like waves washed upon a beach, the bright colors are applied in wide and rhythmical strokes that vary from transparent washes to places where the paint builds up into heavy, opaque ridges.
These paintings are abstract but inspired by nature. In addition to these, Van Tuinen will be showing a large selection of her latest works in encaustic on wood panels. Local art lovers know she has been famous for her encaustic paintings for decades. These latest ones are abstractions based on waterfalls and other elements of nature and employ sumi painting techniques and dark passages reminiscent of Franz Kline’s black and white paintings but with complex layering and transparencies.
Van Tuinen was already well known in the Olympia area when I moved here in 1988, and she’s been working tirelessly ever since. Many locals will remember her studio down by the Farmers Market and the large encaustic painting that for years hung over the reception desk at the Olympian office when it was on 4th Avenue. She has also shown her work in galleries all over the states. When I visited her studio to see her latest works, she was getting ready to send paintings to Atlanta. Her work is represented by galleries in Bellevue; Portland; Bridgehampton, New York; Calgary; Denver; Los Angeles; Vancouver, BC; and London, England. This is big time, folks. She's the real deal. Just now as I am finishing this article I got an email from Van Tuinen saying, “My gallery in LA just called yesterday and they love the new work. He is presenting 14 of the large paintings to his client and collector. I am feeling really good about this because I am painting what I love and worked toward for so many years.”
She will be showing at Waterstreet Café during Arts Walk. Also showing at Waterstreet will be sculpture by Bob Coble.
Arts walk is Friday, April 27, 5-10 p.m. and Saturday, April 28, noon-8 p.m. Waterstreet Café is at 610 Water Street, Olympia.