Barbara Mathes Gallery is pleased to announce “Dreams of Lucca,” an exhibition of recent works by Karen Wilberding Diefenbach that will be on view from March 15 to April 27. “Dreams of Lucca,” an exhibition of recent works by Karen Wilberding Diefenbach, is currently on view through April 27. Diefenbach’s lyrical paintings, sculptures and works on paper explore the ancient landscape of Tuscany and our complex interaction with the natural world.
Poetic meditations on nature and place, Diefenbach’s bronze sculptures of the distinctive Massese sheep balance themes of continuity with a distinctly modernist handling of materials. Diefenbach first encountered the Pecore Massese – a unique breed of sheep originating in the Alpi Apuane – in the Tuscan hills above the town of Camaiore. Intrigued by their strange forms, she came to see the sheep as a metaphor for the persistence of tradition: out of time, they graze through the seasons as they have done for countless centuries. Yet, in recent years their populations have sharply declined. Reflecting the continuity and inherent seriality of the natural world, Diefenbach’s sculptural series evokes a place and a way of life that is increasingly under threat.
A consideration of temporality and continuity can also be seen in Diefenbach’s spare oil paintings of trees. With bare branches intertwined against a pale, wintery ground, the trees of the Sentinella (Sentry) series (2017) stand silent watch, embodying the endurance of nature through the recurring cycles of the seasons. The linearity and graphic clarity of the forms recalls Symbolism while evocative, simple text anchors and abstracts the images. In her mixed media works on paper such as Sonata #1 (2017), Diefenbach situates her familiar animal forms within luminous, shifting landscapes. Diefenbach’s sculptures, paintings, and works on paper are united by a poignant attention to form and a sensitive handling of materials.