Carol Brown Goldberg unearths a world of foliage

"A Host of Golden Daffodils, 2004," pen and ink with polymer particles on handmade paper, 19 x 20 in.—Carol Brown Goldberg

The Chilmark library welcomes the art of Carol Brown Goldberg in an exhibit titled “Extravagant Eden.” The awardwinning artist has on view 11 works on canvas and another 28 on paper through August 24. Each celebrates the world of leaves, trees, and foliage.

Washington-based Goldberg spends up to four months at her Chilmark home during the summer. Rich in its evocation of nature, the present body of work has likely been shaped by that environment. Two post-Impressionist artists, Van Gogh and Matisse, have inspired her current paintings and drawings: the essence of color in the case of Matisse, and in the case of Van Gogh, line and drawing, which she calls the root of everything for him.

“This group is really about line or spontaneous drawing,” she said in an interview last week. “The process is important.”

The artist enters her studio at 8 am and spends all day drawing and painting. “I’m letting my mind be free,” she explains. Her intricate works combine representational details of vegetation with a sense of abstraction in compositional balance. At the end of the day, she works on her smaller pieces almost like doodles.

James Gleick’s book, “Chaos: Making a New Science,” appealed to Goldberg. “Life handles both order and chaos,” she says. Science has provided an important inspiration for the artist, but, she says, “My work is not just about physics, the cosmos, and science.”

The notion of entanglement illustrates for her the way people are connected. She finds identity traits like the women’s movement or political issues too fleeting. Instead, Goldberg focuses on the larger issues of what relate people to each other. Foliage, she suggests, is a great metaphor.

In “A Host of Golden Daffodils,” irregular yellow circles in front of blue ones march across the foreground of a pen-and-ink drawing on handmade paper. Above are what could be grass blades — yellow, green, and outlined. Green tendrils rise in the middle, and behind them brushstrokes appear in the gray background, sparkling with polymer particles. Splashes of green dance across a composition that is lively and richly complex.

In “Red Moon,” black lines of foliage with a few in pale blue climb the right side of the acrylic canvas opposite a maroon full moon. Several tendrils reach over the orb, tying it into the foliage compositionally. Polymer particles in the background add a subtle sparkle.

Peter Wohlleben’s “The Secret Life of Trees” intrigues Goldberg in terms of what the viewer can’t see. In a fascinating use of color, the dark purple of “Before We Knew Vietnam” seems to obscure what is in fact a detailed work of abundant foliage when the viewer is at a distance. As the viewer moves closer, the detail emerges.

“Red Moon, 2016,” acrylic on canvas with polymer particles, 40 x 30 in. —Carol Brown Goldberg

Speaking of how she works, Goldberg says, “I never go outside. I know nothing about plants.” The rich vegetation outside her Chilmark house, however, has imprinted itself.

Although Goldberg’s work is usually large, and several large pieces from this series hang in Washington’s Phillips Gallery, that is not the case in the current exhibit. “I didn’t know what it was about for years,” she said. “Extravagant Eden” demonstrates how clearly she now understands it.