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A closer look: 'Color Segregation' by Robin Zefers Clark


Artist: Robin Zefers Clark // Title: 'Color Segregation' // Kenan Center, Lockport // Through Nov. 17

This painting, a tribute from watercolorist Robin Zefers Clark on view in the annual fall show of the Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society in Lockport's Kenan Center, has a beautiful back story. It emerged this spring, when Clark reuinted with a childhood friend and fellow painter Brenda Morley after 50 years apart. The two painters brought their easels out to a field in West Valley, where their grandfathers also once painted side by side, and set about making their own plein air paintings.

In the process, something about Morley's palette of pastels caught Clark's eye. She took a picture of it and later used that photograph to produce a large-scale watercolor employing only three colors -- cadmium yellow, Prussian blue and alizaran crimson. "I feel that mixing the colors from such a severely limited palette gives the painting a cohesiveness," she said. Since's Clark's husband died in 1996, she added, she hides his initials in every painting. Try to see if you can locate them.

Clark's full narrative about the painting is posted after the jump.

--Colin Dabkowski

Robin Zefers Clark on her painting "Color Segregation:"

This last Spring I went Plein Air painting with a childhood friend, Brenda (Kowalski) Morley, who used to live on a neighboring farm in West Valley, NY. Her family moved away when she was 5. NYS had acquired their farm and part of my family's farm to build a nuclear waste disposal plant. While her parents and my parents remained in touch, Brenda and I had no contact for 50 years. Her Grandfather (Edgar Kowalski) and my Grandfather (Charles Zefers) were both friends/artists and used to paint together.

Brenda currently lives in Tennessee and was back in the area for a week to visit her parents, so I was pleasantly surprised when she called and suggested we get together and bring our easels along. That morning we decided to set up our easels at one of the sites our grandfathers often painted. Halfway into the morning I took a break, and walked over to talk to Brenda. She was sitting in the sunlight, working with her homemade pastels. I was taken with how beautiful her pastel pallet was. It was like a work of art in itself, a mosaic of shattered colors. I decided to snap a photo of it before returning to my own painting.

That evening I was flipping through my photos and was once again drawn to the photo of Brenda's palette. I started noticing different things, like a few stray colors that were misplaced, and how small pieces of pastel were all gathered on one side of all the wooden wells, reflecting the hike that we had taken. That evening I decided to do a painting of the palette. Originally I was going to paint it smaller, but I decided it need to be large in order to show the small nuances.

All of my paintings are painted with only 3 colors, cadmium red, cadmium yellow and prussian blue. I feel that mixing the colors from such a severely limited palette gives the painting a cohesiveness. I knew that the broad range of colors in this subject would be a challenge using my typical palette, so I swapped my cadmium red for a alizarin crimson. This switch would make it easier to reach the purple hues in the piece. In the end, I was quite happy with the range this palette gave me.

While working on the painting, I tossed many titles around in my head, but it wasn't until I was totally finished that the title 'Color Segregation' came to me. At first I was a little hesitant to use it. In the end, I felt it was a fitting title on many levels. I leave the level of philosophical insight up to the viewer.

As far as interesting facts about the painting, since my husband's death is 1996, I have hidden his initials in every painting. Visitors to my studio, especially my young visitors, find it a challenge to locate them. 'Color Segregation' continues that tradition.


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