Nancy Friese is a present-day plein-air painter, dashing off watercolors around the world. Her show at the Pepper Gallery offers vibrant landscapes from her birthplace in North Dakota, her current home in Rhode Island, and France. Who knew Cranston could look like this?
"Two Paths" has at its center a cluster of magnificent trees in lime and kelly green. The paths of the title cross in the foreground and fork around the trees, leading out to a light-flooded field. Darker trees frame either side of the watercolor, adding balance to all the drunken color. The sky, as in all of Friese's works, is a riot of hues: teal, midnight blue, mauve, and orange.
In "Longer Light," she contains the wild sky by setting it behind a curtain of bare, black branches and the slender, red-reflected trunks of white birch trees. Beyond the curtain, the sky and a pond trumpet the sunset in pink and yellow. Within the branchy shroud, a pale-green pillow of spring leaves blossoms near the ground, which is a carpet of russet and gold.
Friese's work is so fluid, so dancerly, it looks like spontaneous play. In truth, the artist returns to the site she is painting a half-dozen times before she finishes each painting, adding new layers of watercolor, anchoring all the dreamy, delirious color with lanky, dark lines. There's nothing simple about these landscapes; the artist just makes them look easy.