Still-Life Paintings Are Moving

Posted January 22, 2010 at 4:28pm

The term “still life— is probably a bad way to describe Maggie Siner’s paintings. Perhaps “passing by— is a more apt characterization of her work, which also includes landscapes and portraits.

Siner’s paintings — which were made during the extensive time she has spent living and painting in the south of France — are on display in an exhibit, “Twenty Years in Provence,— at the Alliance Française de Washington (2142 Wyoming Ave. NW).

Although the artist uses paint to portray her physical surroundings, the shapes, colors and textures created by her brush strokes offer an exquisitely fluid glimpse of the scenes contained within her canvases; it’s almost as if they represent views snatched from the window of a train passing through a countryside — or from the lenses of her very own eyes.

Take her painting “Blue Vases and Cherries,— for instance. Despite the fact that the paint has long since hardened, the image still conveys the constant state of flux that Siner sees everywhere she looks.

“Everything is moving,— she says. “In our world, we see things in human time; whether it’s a figure or a handful of cherries by a vase next to a door, that exact image at that precise point in time will soon be gone. All you have to do is slam the door.—

Her brush strokes and use of paint also reflect the strong influence of abstract expressionists such as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. Those artists rarely painted the three-dimensional world, but Siner says their use of materials were a huge inspiration to her during her formative years as an artist.

Similar to other painters — especially those who paint the natural world — another central element to Siner’s work is light. But unlike most others’ canvases, many of her paintings benefited from a unique wind known as the “mistral— that blows through the south of France.

The strong, cold and normally dry gusts created by areas of high pressure in the Atlantic work to sweep away cloud cover and allow the sun to beam down on Siner’s subjects unabated. What’s more, much of the terrain in Provence consists of white limestone, which has distinctly reflective properties.

The result is a “brilliant universe— in which to paint, she says.

Among her favorite works in the exhibit are paintings that feature the color red — and she’s especially fond of cherries and poppies. Siner favors red because of its explosive quality. Her affinity for cherries might have a little more to it than color, though; Siner says she often grazes on them while capturing the little red orbs’ likeness with her paintbrush.

Alliance Française is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.