‘New works by Auburn Isaak’ at Art Center East
LA GRANDE — A native of Joseph, Auburn Isaak is no stranger to impressive scenery, a fondness for which is obvious in her mixed media compositions. In these abstract works that capture both the grandeur and intricacy of big landscapes, Isaak shows a fascination with mountains and oceans throughout her body of work, exploring their shapes, movement, and contours through a painting technique known as fluid acrylics.
As an art student at EOU, Isaak became disinterested with “sketchbook art,” a term she employs to describe compositions generated from ideas practiced and perfected in the sketchbook. “I got a little fussy about it all, obsessing over one line or curve, and it quickly became more of a frustration than a release,” said Isaak. As a result, she chose abstraction over realism, experimenting with throwing, dripping or running paint together on the canvas. As a student, she worked with a variety of mediums — “I couldn’t choose one” — following her interest in sculpture and ceramics as well as painting.
Once out of school, Isaak discovered fluid acrylics, a technique that employs several additives and heat from a torch to draw different color and textural effects from the paint.
“The first time I tried it I felt like I’d found what I had been looking for,” she said.
The actual painting is done by pouring then manipulating the liquid paint around the canvas using gravity and simple tools. With little more than an idea of a horizon or shape in mind, Isaak creates fantastical landscapes by following the paint’s lead, looking for opportunities to create line and texture rather than dictating them.
Influenced by her time working with sculpture at EOU, Isaak’s pieces go beyond swirling mountain- and sea-scapes, into the sculptural realm. Painted on birch or hemlock panels and framed by pine, her sometimes brightly colored scenes gain an organic quality and depth from the wood’s grain. Some of her pieces also add a layer of cut plexiglass suspended toward the front of the frame, saturating the composition’s sky and casting a shadow on the panel behind it. In this way, Isaak seeks a dialogue between her three chosen materials: wood, acrylic and plexiglass.
“As I developed my process, I noticed that adding different materials to the mix created more texture and more story within the piece,” she said.
Isaak does not intentionally depict specific mountains or bodies of water, allowing the paint to decide their individual contours and undulations. She describes her work as abstract, though her landscapes walk an interesting line between realism and abstraction. They are recognizable as mountains or waves, but instead of exuding romance or nostalgia — as many realist landscapes do — her scenes recall the fantastical and mythological. By inviting you to imagine their world but not telling you anything about it, her compositions conjure the excitement of the unknown.
Of her work, Isaak says, “My intention is not to be obvious to the viewer, but to create something we haven’t seen before. I want them to question why I made these choices.” Viewers will have an opportunity to delve into Isaak’s enigmatic landscapes during her exhibit at Art Center East, featuring a selection of new works.
Isaak is an emerging artist based in her home town of Joseph. She launched her business, Auburn Isaak Art, in 2017. Isaak entered three pieces into Art Center East’s November 2017 Season’s Faire exhibit, winning both the Best in Show and People’s Choice awards with her piece Emerald Sky. Find out more about Isaak and her work at auburnisaak.com.
“New Works by Auburn Isaak” runs Dec. 8 to Jan. 28 with an opening reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 8. The exhibit and opening reception are both free.
ACE is situated at 1006 Penn Ave., La Grande. The art center’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. For more information visit www.artcentereast.org.