Points of view
Reno-based landscape painter Pat Wallis’ show at the Truckee River Gallery features smaller paintings on paper, board and copper, with larger works on canvas, all capturing scenes of Northern Nevada and Northern California. Throughout, Wallis’ talent as a painter and eye for composition and color are evident.
In the roughly 20 paintings on view, we see a range of approaches from Wallis: straightforward landscape, several of which were created en plein air, or “on the spot” outdoors, as well as works on copper and aerial landscape views.
“I like how the landscape becomes abstracted from this vantage point,” says Wallis of the aerial approach. She has looked at the land from above a great deal, as her husband is a small-aircraft pilot, and the two have flown together for the past 10 years.
Wallis paints from digital photographic images for these works.
Of her aerial works, “Golden Hills"—a north-looking view over the Golden Gate Bridge and across the Bay over Angel Island—is particularly eye-catching. Vibrancy is created by the golds and oranges of the mountains playing against the blue of the bay. The ever-recognizable bridge cuts orange-red lines through the lower left-hand side of the work breaking up the composition, giving the piece movement and helping to guide the eye around the painting.
Painting on copper is a rather unique pursuit. Drawn to under-painting, Wallis was interested in the deep golden luminescence the material could provide from beneath the surface of the paint. It took a lot of experimenting to create work the way she wanted to, but she’s honed in on methods that work, namely sanding the surface to give it tooth, so the paint adheres properly. In some works, she’s sanded back into her painting to reveal more of the coppery shine of the surface, to shimmery effect.
Of Wallis’ more traditional landscapes, those showing a straight-on view of the subject, the works depicting fire are notably engaging. Wallis is enthralled by the subject. On show here are two paintings depicting last year’s Hawken Fire. Dramatic, beautiful and alive, these works alone are worth a visit to this show, especially the small “Hawken Fire II.” The bold use of paint creating billowing heaps of smoke over glowing flames garners a voluptuousness that keeps the viewer coming back.
Wallis has been painting for roughly 20 years. Previously, she had a career as a Marin County–based interior designer. After her children were grown, Wallis was able to pursue her artistic passion with greater dedication. She took classes at College of Marin and University of California, Santa Cruz and studied under numerous artists she admired, including Chester Arnold and Randall Sexton.
Throughout her painting career, she has received numerous awards and honors. Wallis was awarded the Bronze Discovery Award from the Art of California magazine, and the Arts in Embassies program selected her work for the American Ambassador to Singapore. Her work has also graced book covers: Barry Spitz and The Marin Open Space chose one of her paintings for the cover of their book Open Spaces: A Guide to the Marin County Open Space District. In 2000, Wallis was commissioned by Paramount Studios to create a painting for the Tom Cruise movie Vanilla Sky. And, the Nevada Museum of Art recently acquired one of her paintings—one depicting a fire—for its permanent collection.