Darla Bjork

Dates: November 13-December 26, 2020
Gallery Hours: Open Saturdays, 11am to 6pm and by appointment (Please call 518 263 2060 to make an appointment)
Location: Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery, Hunter Village Square, 7950 Main Street, Village of Hunter

Image: "Untitled," 2020, Oil stick on wood panel


In an interview before his death, Mark Rothko stated that he wanted to make art that was as good as music.  He admired the depth and mystery he found in classical composition and performance.

Can a painting sing?  

I’ve been looking at and admiring Darla Bjork’s paintings for the last three years.  Her use of oil sticks on wood creates an urgency, fluidity and solidity that is highly unusual in contemporary abstraction.  Many of her larger pieces are door size, inviting the viewer to walk up close to it and be emotionally enveloped in or through them. This is how a painting can be both strong and delicate at the same time.

Prior to the Covid outbreak the colors in her paintings were bright, almost cheerful and consistently on a white background which gave them a bright buoyancy.  Enduring the pandemic isolation that has swept the land, Bjork has fostered a darker, more private view of our current circumstances:  a window into a grief-filled world of uncertainty.

These paintings have a reference to urban structures, tall buildings grouped together, where stacked windows appear to be ladders reaching upward through the darkness, forming an unexpected tribe that is shedding its collective horror and reaching for for something more hopeful.

Can a painting sing? Yes. This why we named Bjork’s exhibit, Choirs. I hope you’ll come to the gallery to look and listen.

—Robert Tomlinson
Director, Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery


Artist’s Statement
One of the first things that I do when I get in my studio is turn on music. Usually classical—Bach or Beethoven, sometimes jazz—Miles Davis or Bill Evans. The music often puts me in an most trancelike state so that I am more focused on the sounds than on the painting. I will start work on a painting that I have gotten “stuck” on but sometimes I find myself picking up an old wood panel that has been sitting around waiting to get scraped down and reworked. I work with layers of oil stick and often etch back to the underlying wax.

For the past few years I have been making grid-like structures that evolved into my weaving series. These consciously evoke the warp and weft of the woven rugs that as a child I watched my maternal grandmother make on her large loom in her basement.

The “Crossroads Series” are about the same size as many of her rugs but where her lines were rigid and uniform, mine are seemingly random crossings and overlapping color. These were done pre-Covid when the world seemed brighter and full of promise.

After the Covid shutdown I along with most people struggled to readjust and learn new coping skills, some as simple as wearing a mask. I switched back to my favorite color—blue—and found by chance an indigo blue that seemed right during this crisis. While I was luckily sheltering in place in Woodstock for what seemed like years, I tried to imagine how people in the large cities trapped in small apartments were cooping and started the Covid Windows series as a tribute to whose people but also to those who did not survive the virus. These paintings are a tribute to those who sang or played trumpets from their balconies, clapped at 7pm each night for the first line workers, and even produced zoom choirs.  

Darla Bjork
Darla Bjork is a painter who has exhibited in the United States and Europe. Her work has evolved from abstract portraits that reflected her “other life” as a psychiatrist when she was working with people in mental institutions to her present weaving series influenced by her childhood in rural Minnesota and now by the view of the Catskill Mountains from her studio in Woodstock, NY.



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