One of the most unique paintings in the Forsyth Gallery’s collection was a gift by the Texas A&M Class of 1985 endowment. Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2, was painted by Austin-based artist Nina Beall in 1991. Ms. Beall has been exhibiting her artwork since 1980 and has participated in solo and group shows around the country.
The Class of 1985 purchased Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2 for its Texas-centric subject of a field of bluebonnets in Spring. Hills full of royal blue, pale blue, and the extremely rare red bluebonnets rise to the middle ground, where an old, fenced cemetery appears on the viewer’s left. Skeletal trees line the ridge of hills in the background and the setting sun reflects on the clouds in shades of yellow, peach, and pink. The painting is currently on display on the first floor of the Memorial Student Center.
The large painting is an example of the use of the impasto technique to create artworks where the paint appears to be rising from the canvas itself. The characteristic look of impasto is typically created by applying the paint to the canvas very heavily with the aid of a pallet-knife or brush, though some artists may also choose to use rags, pastry bags, or even their hands. The word “impasto,” originally derives from the Italian word for dough, and some speculate that the Italian verb “impastare,” meaning “to knead” (as in kneading dough for bread), influenced the modern use of the word.
Both oil and acrylic paint can be used in the impasto technique. Bluebonnets with Cemetery #2 consists of acrylic paint, as this medium dries faster than oils. Artists typically use the technique to add an expressive quality to the painting, create more surfaces upon which light can reflect, and give a 3-dimensional sculptural quality to the work. Impasto was first used by the Dutch and Italian masters of the 16th and 17th Centuries, where it was contrasted with smoother work to give greater interest to folds of cloth and the surfaces of jewels. Later, during the Impressionist era of the 19th Century, painters like Van Gogh created entire canvases using the technique, as seen in The Starry Night, 1889. The impasto technique was also extremely popular with the American post-World War II Abstract Expressionists, including Hans Hofmann and Willem de Kooning.
Ms. Beall states that, “…I am obsessed with the pure physicality of the paint and the process. Therein lies the mystery for me; and I suppose a rather Taoist philosophy in regards to art, nature, and life.” A selection of Ms. Beall’s current past works may be viewed on her website: http://www.ninabeall.com/