Wendy Weldon brings her abstract paintings to Knowhere Gallery in Oak Bluffs for the month of July. She is part of the “Abstraction” show at the gallery, which also includes Robert Hauck, Martha Mae Jones, Sarah Larsen, and Mohamed Yakub.
Weldon began painting works like “Intersection” in the fall of 2021. “Things changed in February,” she said in an interview last week. “There were a lot of conversations about my muted colors and pastels.” Weldon has been known for her strong colors, so this represented a change. “I continued to work on them in the craziness of the times,” she said. “The muted colors calmed me down.” Yet she still wanted to make them powerful. “I worked on making strong paintings with muted colors. People were surprised, but they liked the muted ones.” There was an element of the unexpected that she went with.
Weldon collaborated for the first time during COVID with Rob Hauck, also exhibiting in the “Abstraction” show at Knowhere. “It was very helpful to look at each other’s paintings,” she said. “Rob was traditionally a painter, using muted tans, grays, browns, a neutral palette.” What happened is that they switched. Weldon used more muted colors, and Hauck started using bright colors. The two had been friends, and the collaboration strengthened their relationship. “We were constructively critical of each other’s work,” she says. Both painters work in acrylic.
Weldon gessoed (a form of primer) her canvases in white and continued working through the fall. The war in Ukraine began, and accelerated the craziness in the world, she said. “I wasn’t exactly painting a painting about Ukraine.” Yet the colors in one of her works were those of the Ukrainian flag.
“I learned about myself through the canvases,” she says. A painting called “All Women, All Cry” was inspired by the Bob Marley song “No Woman, No Cry.” The painting “Believe,” with its strong verticals, is about hoping the war will end and believing in peace. “I have validation for what’s going on in my head,” she says. “It comes in through the back.” At the same time, she adds, the painting needs to stand on its own in terms of color, composition, size, and scale. “Language” is a painting with a strong blue vertical line and a yellow one looping up behind it in acrylic. The work has gold leaf on canvas over a wood panel. “When I was painting it,” she says, “I felt like I was painting a language, some historical language.”
An explanation may be helpful to the viewer, she thinks. “But I’d have the painting’s meaning, message, be its visual impact.” She adds, “I’m not painting my passion; my passion is to paint. My intention is to follow my passion.”
Weldon studied at Bard College in New York State, and started off as an abstract painter. She first came to Martha’s Vineyard at the age of 7, and has been living on the Vineyard since 1998. Although she has spent time in California and Vermont, she still would be on-Island in the summer. Her family has a house in Chilmark. As a result, Weldon has served on the zoning board of appeals and the Squibnocket Pond district advisory committee.
She says she may go back to imagery in her painting, but she likes the construction of the canvas and its geometric shapes: “I like the tension of asymmetry, but I like the order of symmetry.”
Weldon says people have been pretty surprised at her new work. “That’s what artists do,” she says. “They change.”
The “Abstraction” exhibit at Knowhere Gallery, 91 Dukes County Ave., Oak Bluffs, runs until July 29. Visit knowhereart.com.