Victoria Adams waterfall painting

Five Women Artists – Victoria Adams

During the month of March, the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five women artists whose work is featured in our collection. The project is inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Can you name #5WomenArtists?” campaign. Read on to learn more about artist Victoria Adams.

Victoria Adams’ early years

Victoria Adams waterfall painting

Victoria Adams, High Falls, 1988; woodcut on paper; Whatcom Museum Collection, Gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of the Liberty Mutual Group, and Washington Art Consortium.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1950, Victoria Adams received her bachelor’s in English Literature from Ohio State University. After moving to the Pacific Northwest in her 20s, she started taking art courses for fun at a small school in Seattle. Eventually, that hobby turned into a passion. She describes her path as a shift “toward visual fiction from literary fiction.”

Adams later went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the University of Washington (UW).

“I had no idea I would end up doing this professionally,” Adams recalls. “It seemed out of the question for me.”

While at UW, Adams studied under renowned painter Jacob Lawrence. She says his one-on-one critiques helped her build confidence as an artist.

One of her early works, a woodblock print from 1988 titled High Falls, is on view in the exhibition Conversations Between Collections. The exhibit runs through Jan. 3, 2021, in the Lightcatcher building.

The piece presents a scene of high drama and chaotic movement. Light appears to bounce and reflect off the turbulent spray of a waterfall. The high horizon line gives the feeling that the falls loom above the viewer, causing tension and an awareness of the forces of nature. Adams is purposeful in the way she constructs this composition.

Her later works

Based on Vashon Island, Victoria Adams now works in the tradition of early luminist landscape painters. This painting style highlights the effects of light in the landscape, projecting a sense of quiet contemplation.

In contrast to her earlier, more abstract, works such as High Falls, Adams’ work has become more realist and representational.

“I want my skies to be spatial and luminous,” she writes. “I strive for the land or water in the foreground to invite the viewer into a state of meditative stillness. Since I don’t include any evidence of human occupation, my scenes can be viewed as being outside of historical time.”

One such work is Treeline Shoreline, a 2018 oil on linen. The painting features a luminous sky with soft light reflecting on the surface of a body of water.

“There is a powerful magnetic sense in landscape that compels us to stop and take a good long look,” she writes on her website.

She hopes her work prompts viewers to engage with the natural world and become interested in it.

“We can’t take for granted that the landscapes are always going to be here,” she says.

Most recently, Adams’ art was on display in a solo exhibition in Seattle titled Light Horizons. Her work has also been exhibited widely at galleries from New York to Seattle.

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