Woody Gwyn is recognized as one of today’s finest realist painters of the American landscape, regarded for his passion in pursuing what he calls “the truth of the land.” The new paintings and works on paper included in Next to Nature manifest this impetus in a variety of scenes and scales that reflect this sensibility in different ways. Whether in an enveloping 10-foot egg tempera painting or a small drawing on paper, Gwyn crafts images of unlikely subjects with an almost devotional attitude toward detail: oceans with thousands of finely painted waves, trees with intricately painted leaves and blossoms, wide expanses of grass or brush with innumerable blades and branches. For Gwyn, this “truth” would seem to exist in the humblest of subjects—a rusty guardrail, a wasp’s nest, an estuary, a remote expanse of ocean.
The show also features several monumental works, one a part of his acclaimed series of highway paintings. Ragged Point is a ten-foot long masterwork that unearths a sense of majesty from a curving segment of seaside highway, the painting itself evenly bisected by a guardrail in the foreground. Art historian Sharyn Udall describes Gwyn’s highway paintings as examples of his interest in painting subjects that “press quietly beyond what they describe.” She writes, “Disguised in the persuasive truth-telling of realism, Gwyn’s paintings invite us to explore realms where nature and culture test mysterious new affinities.”