Wendy Weldon’s large, color-laden canvases of structural shapes seem, at first, to have little tie to the wee birds she paints on cigar boxes. But the two styles have uncanny commonalities: both were her subjects when she decided, as an abstract expressionist, to learn to draw, and both types of subject matter have continued to garner audiences through the decades.
A resident of Martha’s Vineyard for many years, Weldon first studied abstract art at Bard College in the 1960s. “It was cool in the sixties to be an abstract expressionist,” she says. Eventually, living in Vermont, she had a yen to learn to draw. “So I started drawing barns,” she says. Then the birds captured her, becoming another way to refine her pen-and-ink technique.
Although she also produces monotypes, Weldon is probably best known for her large-scale, color-field paintings of structured objects—boxy barn designs, rocks, and doors. She says the massive canvases (some are almost five or six feet in dimension) most represent who she is. “I’m the most vocal on the big abstracts,” she says. “They capture more of who I am.”
The setting she used so prolifically to practice drawing—the barn—continues to hold her. “I’m still reconstructing the barn image I’ve done through the years, seeing what’s going on in it,” she says. They are symbolic too, of course—it is what the structure holds, its essence, which fascinates her. One of them, a mossy green barn with a red door—the inspiration for many of her barn paintings—may look familiar to Vineyarders: the painting is based on the Keith Farm barn, on Middle Road in Chilmark.
Look no further that the wide-open plains and fields of Indiana for Weldon’s affection for barns. She grew up on a farm in that bucolic state and spent plenty of time feeding animals and checking on her horse. She began coming to the Vineyard as a child in the 1950s and charts her prolific years as an artist by the decade. “When you change it up, it can be complex,” she says. “I don’t want to get formulaic.” For Weldon, the basic goal is innate: keep reaching for the voice.
Wendy Weldon’s art may be seen at North Water Gallery at 27 North Water Street in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard (northwatergallery.com) and at wendyweldon.com. She is holding an open studio on Sept. 8-9 at her home in Chilmark from 10am to 4pm as a benefit for Featherstone Center for the Arts (featherstonearts.org).