Acqua Alta an exhibition of color rich paintings and collages, features
Lazarus's large scale oil paintings and handmade paper, mixed media collages
mounted on canvas and wood. The intense, vibrant abstract pieces directly reference
the artist's latest travels to Venice, Italy, while also drawing on her continued
interest in the unique luminosity of the atmosphere and landscape found throughout
the country. Specifically, the series considers the transformative power of water,
how it defines and alters its environment as a result of both natural changes and
human actions. The work materialized in response to the extreme flooding that
overtook Venice in the fall of 2019, after a season of extraordinarily high
tides, or acqua alta (high water).
Over time, water has become a vehicle for Lazarus's reactions to current events as well as a timeless visual representation of light, color, and motion. In water, the artist finds beauty in ruin and calm amid chaos. An agent of change, constructive and destructive, water quenches and inundates, buoys and drowns, cleanses and stains. Further, it absorbs and reflects surrounding objects in an array of multifaceted hues and complex forms.
Filled with gradations of saturated pigment and dynamic, organic shapes, Lazarus's paintings and collages conjure a sense of movement through space and time, channeling the universal ebb and flow of physical and emotional energies. Particularly apparent in the collages, the many layers of natural environment, coupled with geometric echoes of architecture, recall the aqua alta in Venice-how its visual and emotional topography rises and falls with the water. Looking into and through them becomes a journey from present to past as viewers experience simultaneously what is and what was.
Lazarus has forged a relationship with Italy over more than two decades, and it has left an indelible print on both the process and aesthetics of her work. Inundated with vibrant pigments, her luscious, tactile surfaces engage the senses as they directly recall the artist's experiences through expressive mark making and process-driven applications. By using a palette reflective of the deep, rich colors native to the Venetian landscape, she reveals the radiance that exists through every layer of the picture plane and our own existence, invariably emerging from even the darkest surroundings.
One year after my exhibition, I received an email from environmental education teachers in Greece who create educational material for "floods".
Ioanna Papaioannou asked my permission "to use the painting Venice Flooding as a stimulus to awareness students to the subject of floods. The educational material will be available in digital form for free use by primary and secondary schools in Greece."
I knew then that I had somehow, albeit in an abstract manner, managed to convey my thoughts and fears about persistent flooding and the destruction wrought upon Venice by the passage of time, modern civilization and Climate Change.