Isabel Rucker, “Faja Grande Waterfall” Gouache, watercolor, paper, 22” x 30", 2018 (Isabel Rucker)

The year-end rush often leaves a tired population in its wake. We crave the slow return of light after the winter solstice while digging into short, cold days. It is a time for renewal and slow decisions brought on by cozy introspection. In the heart of these dark cold days Isabel Rucker has invited us on an adventure into seeing and remembering moments of light and splendor.

The Theater Gallery links together the two sides of the Center for the Arts in Jackson. Coming in from the cold and just starting to thaw, I find that walking through this space is more like floating when surrounded with such luminous work. Isabel’s large-scale paintings call to mind an ice cave sparkling in the brilliant sun on the coldest day of the year. Each piece beckons with a new twinkling light. The translucent watercolor and opaque gouache work together to create a depth that nearly sparkles despite the dry surface.

Scale is an important element in the visual arts. Isabel’s paintings would feel precious and delicate if they were only a few inches wide, each demanding protection, to be hidden away and relished by only one person at a time. In large scale, we can take them in with others and see it as we might experience them. The paintings offer us the artist’s view of refraction, each painting a window into another world or a fraction of a moment when the nimble light was frozen.

Seeking the Light is exactly what this time of year is about: sweet moments when the sun is just so, the air neither warm nor cold, the light neither hard nor soft as the snow pulses with facets of blue and green and lavender. Each season contains indescribable moments that live in shared memory. The ability to capture these moments takes a great deal of skill with challenging media; even more so to convey meaning and feeling through abstraction.

The natural phenomenon that Isabel explores is one that hits on a visceral level; easier to feel and experience than describe. These descriptions are often best left to the interpretation of an artist. Even the refraction of light is easier viewed in the mind’s eye than described neatly in a few words. These moments of natural beauty are unexpected gifts for those who wake early or brave the elements. Each is a moment in which change occurs between exhalations or a blink of the eye, and these paintings capture the indescribable moments between each shift.

Isabel Rucker, “Hoarfrost Refraction #5” Gouache, Watercolor, Paper, 51” x 55”, 2017 (Isabel Rucker)

The delicate, fleeting magic that is hoarfrost has been deliciously captured in the Hoarfrost Refraction series. Using water media to describe this event, Isabel has captured crisp edges of intense color that give way to new fuzzy shapes. Each piece seems to move and shift microscopically at a glance. The soft, yet unapproachable nature of hoarfrost illuminates the special feeling found on unbelievably bright and cold mornings.

Alpenglow, for such a beautiful and exotic sounding name, is much better viewed than described. Both the Solstice Alpenglow and Metamorphic Glow series capture the special luminosity on display when light changes as it hugs the mountain skyline, no matter the geography. Isabel digs deep into her layered colors and shapes to encourage a recollection of these moments of color.

Isabel Rucker, “Solstice Alpenglow #5” Watercolor, paper, 51 ½” x 44″, 2018 (Isabel Rucker)

Rucker’s artist statement tells us that “This year I have been expanding my paintings to include the color, light and patterns of remembered places.” The snapshot quality of remembered textures and colors; warm sea air mixed with new visuals, tastes and smells are all captured in paintings of Portugal. Yet memories from nearby Pinedale seem equally exotic and breathtaking.

In “Faja Grande Waterfall,” a rainbow veil of dots covers layers of a pattern that evokes terracotta roof tiles. The pattern fades into a background of textured blue water with a hint of flora, all of it just enough to be a memory of a feeling of a place — a reflection.

Isabel Rucker, “September Brilliance” Gouache, watercolor, paper, 22” x 30”, 2018 (Isabel Rucker)

Sun-splashed autumn colors also became a refracted memory from a week in Upper Green River Valley. Though right outside of Rucker’s hometown of Pinedale, the pattern, shape, color, and luminosity could just as easily be from a warm island shore.

ArtSpot Sketches offer a glimpse into something yet to come. Keep your eyes on the ArtSpot in Jackson. Rucker has been selected as one of this year’s artists to transform this public space.

Isabel Rucker, “ArtSpot Sketches” Pencil, paper, 30” x 22”, 2018 (Isabel Rucker)

Each piece in Seeking the Light is quiet, yet not to be ignored. We are asked to slow down to see the depth available in each moment. Radiating with the desire to explore snapshot memories and moments of light, pattern, and color — each piece part of the artist’s story, yet each offering the familiarity of collective memory.

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Rucker is a multi-disciplinary artist, each material adding to her overall knowledge and touch. These gem-like images lend another exploratory dimension to her jewelry work as she is currently studying gemology. Metalsmith and jeweler, painter and sculptor, she has the ability to see images from many viewpoints and bring them to life.


Seeking the Light is on display at the Center for the Arts in Jackson until Feb. 5. The Center for the Arts is open Mon. – Sat. from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sun. from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Jenny Dowd is an artist living in Alpine, Wyoming where she co-owns the small pottery business, Dowd House Studios. Her pottery can be found in several Jackson shops and restaurants. Jenny teaches studio...

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  1. Wonderful interpretation! You really captured the feel of this lovely exhibit of luminous paintings.