Color, spirit and energy pervade in the Vermont Supreme Court Gallery this summer. Flow of lines, movement in brushstrokes and flashes of color interact with open space in Lois Eby’s compelling abstract acrylic paintings. Exuberant to contemplative, the artworks invite personal engagement.
“Studies in Rhythmic Vitality: Paintings by Lois Eby” opened this week in the Vermont Supreme Court Gallery and continues through Sept. 27. The solo exhibition features Eby’s recent abstract acrylic paintings on paper and on birch panels.
“My goal is to create works which are alive: full of spirit, energy and breathing space. I hope for works which become a field of experience, perhaps like the surge of life I feel when experiencing love, hearing a great jazz master, or watching the night sky and letting my mind wander to the unimaginable space of universes beyond ours,” Eby wrote in her artist’s statement on her website.
Eby, who now lives in Montpelier, settled in Wolcott nearly five decades ago with her husband, poet and playwright David Budbill. From initial landscape and still-life training and painting, Eby was drawn to abstract painting as a way to work with nature and its constant changes and energy, rather than as an observer of it.
In the evolution of her art, Eby was especially drawn to explore the calligraphic line and to improvisation as a creative process to let line and colors emerge.
“Rhythmic vitality, an aesthetic principle of calligraphy which is also present in many kinds of music, describes the energy I most want to achieve in my work. I have been exploring rhythmic vitality for many years, since I first learned of the term in the early ‘90s as a description of the highest aesthetic achievement of calligraphy,” noted Eby in her artist’s statement for the Supreme Court exhibition.
Originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Eby draws on many influences, including introductions during her youth to Native American art and symbols, especially the Osage and Sioux. Her artistic roots extend into Asian ink painting and Western abstraction and color, including artwork of Kandinsky and Miro. African American improvised music has contributed to her process and work.
Eby explained that she is especially drawn to the improvisation of, “contemporary free jazz musicians who are pushing the boundaries of the known, one might say the previously heard, while steeped in the rhythms and soul of their tradition.”
“In my own work I want my line and color to create an image that moves with rhythm and pulse. I want my paintings, however they start and whatever they become, to evoke contemplative space and the mysterious energy of being alive,” she said.
Eby’s paintings have a musical quality, although she does not listen to music while painting, rather drawing on her own improvisation.
“I want each painting to have its own emotional and aesthetic reason for being coming out of my eye and feeling,” she explained.
Eby paints first, then titles her artworks later. “Trio for Rhythms and Colors,” “Next Door to Neptune,” “The Mind Goes Free,” and other titles in the show came to her after the works were completed. Several reference mountains — “Mountain Journey,” “Moving to the Mountain” — are among them.
“I was thinking of mountains as both concrete and also as a symbol. They have a long history as symbols of a spiritual journey. Mountains are important in Vermont. If we are not climbing them we like to look at them,” said Eby.
Eby noted that she painted several of the mountain pieces during the winter of 2017-2018, the second winter after her husband’s death.
“I think that with all the spiritual challenges in finding your way after a life partner has died, that theme presented itself as a title that evokes a challenging journey, a personal journey to find deeper roots and courage to find your way,” Eby said.