A Visual Conversation: New Paintings by Beau Wild

Beau Wild is consistently on the move. Her peripatetic nature is reflected in her most recent abstract paintings, inviting us to partake of her expression of a road well traveled. Wild is a passionate journeyer and artist who has experienced a life filled with unexpected twists and turns, meandering byways, hairpin curves, gentle slopes, and everything in between. When she reached a dead end, she always had the resilience to begin again.

Grace under pressure is released in striking new abstract paintings that relate Wild’s inner story, marking her latest artistic incarnation. She created figurative work during the majority of her artistic career, work that gained her notoriety and reward. The new work bears remnants of her love of the figure in its gentle curves and movements evoking the body.

Abstracted images tell a greater story than representational ones. They are based purely on emotion and intuition. The process of doing this work is completely liberating. And when I move from figurative work to total abstraction, I feel myself letting out a full breath.

Two large-scale companion pieces, Studies in Black and White, each 46 x 64 inches, were painted in Asheville, North Carolina in 2011. The paintings give voice to newfound freedom in her work, each toying with tensions between order and chaos. Tethered only by a horizontal white line, each composition fills the canvas’ previous void with energy and movement. Black swatches of paint explode onto gray-and-white fields, energized by her distinctive, intermittent line and mark-making. In the tradition of Abstract Expressionism, these pieces are about subconscious reflection and the body’s intuition. They couple emotive brooding with joyous release. These paintings are two of her first large explorations of abstraction, officially cutting the cord of past representational constraints.

 

Study in Black and White #1, 2011, graphite and acrylic on canvas, 46 x 64 in.

 

Study in Black and White #2, 2011, graphite and acrylic on canvas, 46 x 64 in.

 

In Forgiven, Wild focuses on the lush qualities of paint, allowing it to drip on the canvas in certain areas, cascading between washes of white, tan, silver, and light blue. Two black forms, slightly above and below a central horizontal line, relate to one another, implying a gentle arc. Black scratches created with a stiff brush lend the piece an ethereal quality. When studied closely, the surface is rich and textural, and the energy of her hand is apparent. She notes:

Forgiven began completely as strokes of color beginning with a kind of dance—moving without thinking. A sense of several forms emerged, and I added or removed details to create mystery.

 

Forgiven, 2011, graphite and acrylic on canvas, 36 x 60 in.

Escape to Sanityis eruptive and a beautiful testimonial to Wild’s willingness to move into unknown territory. The central element, a bright yellow form, is held taut between strong, curvilinear black arches. The journey of the painter is documented in a very direct way, leaving the mark of her brush apparent and the breadth of her arm’s movements.

 

Escape to Sanity, 2011, graphite and acrylic on canvas, 46 x 67 in.

 

Tenuous lines move energetically throughout the painting, seeming to search for a resting place, while remaining actively engaged. Just below the surface lie graphic complexities veiled with washes of paint, barely left visible, drawing the viewer more deeply into a space that is alive with cathartic energy. In most of these new paintings, Wild experiments with a complex symbiosis between line and form, hidden and exposed areas, density and openness. She moves easily into the work without hesitation—even if only for short periods of time. Through her life, Wild’s steady, disciplined work as an artist has given her an important identity. Even when busy with other pursuits, she does not need “the right inspiration, timing or mood” to pursue painting, she notes.

 

Green Valleys, 2011, graphite and acrylic on canvas, 45 x 64 inches

 

Betty (Beau) Wild grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida in what she describes as a traditional family that spent summers in New Hampshire, and her descriptions of her early artistic experiences through college reflect a continuous engagement in art.

One of my first memories of being an artist is that of painting during summers spent on Newfound Lake in New Hampshire in our lakeside farmhouse. I sat on a large boulder by the lake and painted. During summer break from Tufts, I worked in Provincetown. I often got up early, at 5:00 a.m., bought freshly baked bread from the bakery, and painted while sitting on the pier before my shift as a waitress. After I graduated from Tufts University with a degree in occupational therapy, I stayed in Boston and lived downtown. I was a member of the Copley Society, and I exhibited and sold my work.

She married her first husband and the future father of her children in 1964 and continued to live in Boston. She worked in occupational therapy and her career blossomed. She eventually went out on her own, developing the first private occupational therapy practice in the United States, and she eventually offered national workshops and lectures. In 1970, she gave birth to her first child, Rachell. A few years later, due to her financial success, the family was able to move to a less hectic life in New Hampshire during the height of the back-to-earth movement. She gave birth to her second child, Douglass, in 1976. She cared for her children and helped her husband with business on the side. In the midst of all of this, after the work of each day was done, she found time alone to paint from midnight until 2:00 a.m. In 1978, she and her family returned to Boston, and she attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. In 1983, the family relocated to Daytona Beach. Wild opened an outpatient rehabilitation center that she ran for 10 years while actively painting and gaining recognition. She stole slivers of time to do her artwork, alone in her studio in the basement of the YWCA. In 1997, her marriage ended in an overdue divorce. During this time, she purchased a house on the banks of Rose Bay in Harbor Oaks, Florida, where she lives today. In the tumultuous aftermath of change, she pursued the ambitious idea of developing a multi-purpose arts center in Daytona Beach. She was awarded a business loan that she used to completely renovate a shell of a space that once housed a five-and-dime. Three months after she opened the center with rave reviews, two hurricanes hit the town over the course of one week, ripping the roof off and flooding the space. She consequently lost her investment to the building’s landlord and was forced to declare bankruptcy.

 

Hurricane, 2012, graphite and acrylic on canvas, 48 x 58 in.

 

At this point in the game, her confidence faded as she experienced the humiliation of a divorce and the loss of her business. Over the course of several years, she traveled and worked as an occupational therapist before returning to Rose Bay to rebuild her life, and, in 2007, she remarried. During the same year, a short article titled “Wild Winnings” appeared in the Daytona Beach News Journal, citing her impressive monetary gain from a lottery ticket. After collecting the money, she and her husband George took off for Europe, traveling to the South of France and England, following her passion for adventure.

 

Spanish Market, 2012, graphite and acrylic on canvas, 46 x 58 in.

 

Today, in her studio on Rose Bay, a lush tropical setting filled with light, air, and beauty, Wild is untethered and free to follow her interior muse in any way she wishes—creating authentic work that is an extension of her vast experience in a dramatic world of losses and wins. The bright palette and lively nature of paintings such as Voluptuous (pictured at the top of this post) and Spanish Market genuinely emote her joy for life, and her respect for the passage of the past. With a firm but sensitive hand, she continues in her characteristic way to render new life for herself, affirming the fact that we all have within us the power to regenerate and grow beyond that which we previously imagined.

—KATHERINE DUNCAN AIMONE, ARTSWRITE.COM

Voluptuous, 2012, acrylic, pastel, and graphite on canvas, 46 x 58 in.

On April 13th, 2012, posted in: Painters by