Phoebe Adams "Nomad Walking"

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Nomad Walking

ISBN: 978-1-955260-71-8

Front Cover: Phoebe Adams, Precious Trees , 2021, Acrylic gouache on wood panel, 30 x 40”

Title Page: Phoebe Adams, Darkening Moment , 2021, Acrylic gouache on paper mounted on wood panel, 30 x 40”

Back Cover: Installation Phoebe Adams Nomad Walking at David Richard Gallery

Phoebe Adams Nomad Walking at David Richard Gallery October 4 - November 11, 2022

Published by: David Richard Gallery, LLC, 508 West 26th Street, Suite 9E, New York, NY 10001 212-882-1705 | 505-983-9555

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Gallery Staff: David Eichholtz and Richard Barger, Managers

All rights reserved by David Richard Gallery, LLC. No part of this catalogue may be reproduced in whole or part in digital or printed form of any kind whatsoever without the express written permission of David Richard Gallery, LLC.

Artwork: © 2020 - 2022 - Phoebe Adams Catalogue: © 2022 David Richard Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

Catalogue Design: David Eichholtz and Richard Barger, David Richard Gallery, LLC, New York, NY Artwork © Phoebe Adams Images by Yao Zu Lu



Nomad Walking

PHOEBE ADAMS Nomad Walking

The new paintings created by Phoebe Adams are extraordinary on many levels. Aside from being her first cohesive series of paintings on paper laid on wood panel and can vas—at this scale and three years in the making—the imagery and underlying premise is a poignant reminder of our fragile landscapes with limited time to preserve them. The artist has created in this series of artworks a call to action to save the planet by paying attention to our environment. More important, humankind must take responsibility and curtail current consumption levels and historic activities that adversely impact the planet and ecosystems at an alarming rate and in irreversible ways.

Adams’s studio practice started shifting from her highly collected bronze and mixed me dia sculptures to the two-dimensional picture plane in the late 1990s and has continued as her primary focus ever since. While the exhibition includes a few paintings on can vas, her preference was, and remains, working on heavy and hand-crafted papers rather than canvas. She also prefers utilizing a support made of a material with more structure and depth, something akin to a medium used in sculpture. Hence, her choice of paper laid on wood panel for the debut of this important series. The wood panels are mounted on a rectangular platform that is 3-inches deep and recessed 3-inches inside the outer edge of the panel, with the entire backside of each painted with a range of solid colors such that the paintings are floating off the wall and surrounded by a back reflection. The combination of being afloat and the halo effect makes them more dimensional and object-like, thus, distinct from a conventional canvas support on stretcher bars.

Like most of Adams’s artwork, the subject matter is rooted in nature, specifically, particular places meaningful to the artist and full of memories. Adams has never been bound by the need for literal depiction nor accuracy in picturing any locale. Instead, she relies on memory and Imagination to think through the various scenarios and possible outcomes. This newest body of work does just that, each painting filled with organic imagery of forests, fields, rivers, ponds, and celestial skies. The vivid and bold color palettes create powerful compositions and combined with each painting standing proud off the wall surrounded by a halo effect makes each work seem larger than their actual size of 30 x


40 inches in a horizontal format, commanding attention and pulling the viewer closer to examine.

The artist focuses on experiencing the beauty, wonder, and serenity of nature and landscapes in addition to the powerful emotions from those engagements. Hence, her paint ings are abstractions, pulling from reality, recollection, and fantasy in a construct that is unique to Adams as well as each viewer. This allows the artist to incorporate and utilize non-representational shapes, unexpected geometric forms, and unconventional, almost neon, color palettes to achieve compositional impact and resonance with diverse viewers and provide multiple points of entry into each artwork. Such incorporations and overlays of graphic imagery, grids, stripes and mapping elements as well as her own iconography operate in several ways. First, they create tension and discord, often enhancing the imagination of the viewer and suggesting the possibility of spatial depth and multiple visual planes. Second, they can set the mood or tone by using neutralized or darker values of color, dampening the vibrant saturated colors below. Last, they can also be a metaphor, a “technical”, non-organic, possibly human-made element and veneer through which we view the landscape and environment. The veneers can either be the taint or damage resulting from human action or the lens through which we must forever view the altered environment.

Viewer engagement is core and why Adams is a master of producing and selecting paintings that both adhere to her central message and have the most powerful and compelling imagery. This is where the paintings get even more interesting with internal tensions and contrasts that she composes within each painting and across a body of work. The imagery in this new series includes lush, idyllic, and majestic landscapes, forests, rivers, and skies that are still in a recognizable state, such as Dream of Water and Land and Precious Trees. Then, the scenes change, ranging from forests and fields depleted and forever harmed from human activity, unstable climate, and extended drought to the opposite extreme with damaged ecosystems from unprecedented storms, ravaging floods, and rising coastlines. The most compelling examples being: What We Bring to the Forest (2021), What Change Brings (2021), What is carried Away (2021), and We Are The Asteroid (2022).


Thus, Adams examines in one body of work the two sides of the sublime. The beauty, grandeur and awe of nature that approaches religious and metaphysical stirrings as well as the punishing opposites, the powerful forces of nature with their accompanying hor ror and fear when unleashed. Adams’s new paintings and their titles allude to mankind’s dependance on technology, mass consumerism, and greed with their corresponding and adverse impacts on the landscape and environment. Acknowledging such forces and their disfiguring of the landscape and life altering consequences puts the blame squarely on humankind as the provocateur for much of the accelerated pace of depleted resources, melting glaciers, rising tides, extreme storms, record breaking drought and forest fires. Guess what, Adams is not alone, many artists have been sounding this alarm in many diverse media and supports, forums and protests for many decades.

The ten paintings in the current exhibition, Nomad Walking, demonstrate Adams’s mas tery of painting, love of nature and special places as well as understanding how to communicate with people. Her imagery gets inside the viewer like a song verse or refrain that you cannot get out of your head, one that brings back memories. Her desire is to make the viewer fall in love with the land and nature all over again by showing the potential dark side of what humankind will lose if we do not act now. Her vast experience in art making, gardening, and observing nature by living part of the year on the coast in the east and the rest of the year in the mountainous desert of the Southwest US (and traversing thousands of miles between the two), gives her inspiration and hope. These experiences make the artist’s work more accessible by combining nature-based themes, iconic shapes, and landscapes with elements of non-objective abstraction. This combination creates depth and illusory space as well as tension and discord that make them compelling, thought provoking, and trigger the imagination. Hopefully, they will ignite something in each viewer, to act and renew their hope in humanity and the planet.



“The painting is not on a surface but on a plane which is imagined. It moves. It is not there physically at all. It is an illusion, a piece of magic, so what you see is not what you see.”

Philip Guston

These words by Guston are referenced frequently, but they still speak with a sharp clar ity about what happens when a gifted hand finds its way into that imagined plane that is not just a surface. Phoebe Adams has such a hand. Her latest works on paper are big-spirited, engaging and vital, each offering its own access to that other place Guston implies, a luminous and unexpected elsewhere.

Freed from the need to depict consensual reality, Adams has populated these new paintings with wildly juxtaposed colors, fractured spatiality and enigmatic forms that feel vaguely familiar and yet are not. While moderately sized, they are exploding beyond their borders with brio, spilling into the room and out into the world beyond.

In assembling her limitless trove of forms that are neither recycled nor reused (Adams describes these as “transformations of one thing to another: a merging of messy, inarticulate states”) Adams has raised her hand as if to say, please slow down. Let your eye, mind and body have time to take this all in. That slow looking makes it possible to see as a child does, to enter into these enchanted works and wander at will in a wonderland of surprises.

A disruptor by nature, Adams is constantly exploring new ways to encounter materiality and the natural world, lacing that search with a steady dose of theirrational and the irregular. “These pieces approach elegance, which is then subverted,” she pointed out. Tenaciously curious and possessing the observational exactitude of a surveillance camera, she has spent a lifetime assembling images, concepts, ideas, constructs. Her perceptivity


is perpetually open, reaching outward to bring everything into play. When speaking with Adams, highly intelligent andrelentlessly whimsical, associations flow freely and are in fact encouraged. As a result, it can be advantageousto approach her chimerical work by way of adjacencies and correlations.

Adams staked out a place for herself in the natural world long ago. An avid walker in Maine, New Mexico and Iceland, she is a wilderness variation of Baudelaire’s urban flâneur —that lone wanderer who finds pleasure in exploring without a schedule or a map. “I do have an aversion to paths,” she recently confessed.

These wanderings are also grist for the mill of her work. She blends the deeply personal—and often ineffable—experiences of wildness with the hard work of forging something new. It is a rarefied alchemy, this comingling and conjoining of nature and imagination, and the resulting elixir is exquisite: extraordinarilypersonal, idiosyncratic paintings that speak with resonance and universality.

Adams is not alone in alchemizing nature and imagination into a new view. Other artists she admires are perennial members of the Nomads Who Walk and Make Art tribe. Like Adams, Charles Burchfield spent much of his time in nature. His paintings, luminous and ecstatic, merge objects portrayed in a representationalmanner with their esoteric ener getics. Burchfield was imaging the full landscape long before MRI technology was being used to see beneath the skin.

Burchfield’s view has resonance with Adams:

“An artist must paint not what he sees in nature, but what is there. To do so he must in vent symbols, which, if properly used, make his work seem even more real than what is in front of him.”

Tom Nozkowski was a passionate walker in the Shawangunk Ridge near his home. His blend of nature and imagination came together in small paintings that are enigmatic, dreamlike, charismatic, potent. A description by poet and art critic John Yau suits Adams as well:


“One of the underlying drives of Nozkowski’s work is to intimate the plenitude of reality while remaining rooted in its materiality; to evoke, in the compressed cosmos of his paint ings, how deeply and thoroughly the resplendent surpasses the everyday.”

Both Burchfield and Nozkowski are close art kin to Adams. Her expansive, latitudinous mind (which is played out in her overflowing bookshelves) has also found resonance with writers who work in that liminal zone between nature and art making: Rebecca Solnit, Craig Childs, Barry Lopez, Merlin Sheldrake, Robert Macfarlane. These are all her essential cotravelers.

Adams has described her work as having “a sense of rapture at the density of natural phenomenon…combined with a darker view of changes and looming danger from our hu man interventions.” Certainly the precariousness of our earthly existence can be perceived amid the lush imagery of these paintings. But her work is neither dystopic nor without hope. Adams instead offers up a sense of how we can humbly learn about being human from the nonhuman, and what it can mean to truly love a place. As Solnit wrote, “In learning to love the Earth and particular places in it, we are learning to love back what loved us all along.”


Phoebe Adams

Change , 2021

on linen

30 x 40 x 3”

Phoebe Adams

Dream of Water and Land , 2022 Acrylic on paper on wood panel 30 x 40”


Phoebe Adams

What We Bring to the Forest , 2021

Acrylic gouache on paper mounted on wood panel 30 x 40”


Phoebe Adams

Precious Trees , 2021 Acrylic gouache on wood panel

30 x 40” 20

Phoebe Adams

Whispering of Trees , 2021 Acrylic gouache on wood panel 30 x 40”


Phoebe Adams

We Are The Asteroid , 2022 Acrylic gouache on wood panel 30



Phoebe Adams

What is Carried Away , 2021

Acrylic gouache on paper mounted on wood panel 30 x 40 ”


Phoebe Adams

Fractured Spring , 2021 Acrylic gouache on canvas 30



Phoebe Adams

Under the Volcano , 2022 Acrylic gouache on canvas 30



Phoebe Adams

Rays , 2021

gouache on wood panel

30 x 40”
Phoebe Adams Spread , 2020 Acrylic on paper on wood panel 30 x 40” 46

Phoebe Adams

What Change Brings , 2021

Acrylic gouache on canvas

30 x 40” 48

Phoebe Adams

The Yellow Jacket (for Amanda Gorman) , 2021 Acrylic gouache on paper mounted on wood panel 30 x 40”


Phoebe Adams

Darkening Moment , 2021

Acrylic gouache on paper mounted on wood panel 30 x 40”


Phoebe Adams Biography:

Phoebe Adams is a sculptor and painter who has spent a lifetime wandering in the paths of the natural sciences, incorporating abstract and representational images from nature into her work. She grew up in New England and has spent much time in the landscapes in New Mexico.

Adams earned a BFA in Sculpture from Philadelphia College of Art now called University of the Arts and received an MFA from SUNY Albany. She also attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Adams has exhibited her work in numerous solo and group shows across the country and in Europe. Her work is in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center, to name a few. She has taught sculpture courses at Tyler Art School, University of the Arts, and was a tenured professor of art at University of Pennsylvania – Kutztown for many years. She has been a Visiting Critic and lectured widely in graduate and undergraduate art programs across the country. Adams has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards; a Pew fellowship in the arts being one. She has been a resident at MacDowell as well the Ucross Foundation.

Maintaining a studio practice in mid-coast Maine, Adams continues reading deeply in the natural sciences. As a keen observer, she finds the threats to our changing landscapes a perilous slope that artists and all must confront.

Public and Museum Collections


The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY Harn Museum, Florida

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY

Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA

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