Martha Saunders

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Oscillating Vistas

Martha Saunders’ current works, Oscillating Vistas, ten 4’ x 4’ encaustic paintings, and related smaller pieces, draw inspiration from the experience of walking and how it shapes our thoughts. The harmony of walking and thinking has a long history traceable back to Socrates, Wordsworth, and Thoreau. The rhythmic movement of the body seems to facilitate the flow of ideas connecting the physical present and the knowledge and sensations dormant in our memories. Conceived serially and hung either singly or in abutted pairs and threes, sometimes in their original order, sometimes rearranged, Saunders works evoke a panorama of shifting vistas, as well asthe mind’s continual shift in attention from the outside world to the already known.

A recurring horizon line that feeds through the images rather like a path lends continuity through the series. The horizon serves as a metaphor for the contingency of definition, and the convergences of meaning. Thoughit represents the limit of our vision, the horizon is never fixed, butalways defined by the position of the body, and always unobtainable. Thejunction of sky and earth, it suggests as well the meeting of the materialand spiritual, the body and the intellect. Saunders brings all these possibilities to play in her paintings. Small photo transfers and drawings embedded in the thick encaustic surface evoke the glimpses of landscape thatwhile walking spark new ideas and refashion the old.

Oscillating Vistas are an outgrowth of Saunders previous installation, Mind Skin, a randomly arranged continuous panel of 12” x 12” beeswax tiles, drawn on , sculpted, and encasing faint drawings andephemera. Hung horizontally around an entire room the work suggested the physicality and constant reshaping and reconnecting of thought. In both sets of work, Saunders floats an occasional grid of dots lightly over the waxy surfaces. Like specks on the underside of one’s eyelids, they suggest discreet thought waiting to coalesce. If in Mind Skin, Saunders points to the mind as integral to the body, in her current work she reveals the interconnectedness of not only body and mind, but both in motion within an also palpable terrain.

—Paula Rau, art historian

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