Look out, Washington, D.C.! Randi's heading your way!
No, she's not a hurricane; she's an abstract painter from Utah.Randi Wagner says, "My artwork isn't what people would expect from a Utah woman artist." And she's absolutely right. The 25 paintings she shipped to the nation's capital are not only abstract, but are filled with so much color and energy they'll practically jump off the wall and grab you.
People in Washington, D.C. - and other major cities - have grown accustomed to seeing watercolors by Utahns Donna Burton, Nancy Lund and Helen Paul, since their poster reproductions are hot items in stores across the nation. But their florals and other representational works are a far cry from Wagner's abstract and nonobjective style.
Anxious to monitor public response to her dynamic approach, Wagner - and her husband, Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam - will be in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 2. That's the date the paintings make their debut in the law firm of Jones, Waldo, Holbrook and McDonough, where they will hang through Nov. 2.
While preparing for the show, Wagner put in many long hours completing and crating the pictures. But it was worth it, Wagner says, because she wants to promote Utah and its image.
Although some of her works in the exhibit have been inspired by the Utah landscape, 18 of them are the result of a trip last fall to Taiwan and Hong Kong.
It didn't take long for Wagner to get caught up in the visual excitement of colorful banners, costumes, lanterns and pagodas. She said she loved the busy harbors and the narrow streets and alleys - all filled with fascinating colors.
She was thrilled to see people use color freely, especially in their dress. "People in the U.S. are too timid; they don't dress as colorfully as people in Taiwan and Hong Kong."
It comes as no surprise that she loves color. "In fact, that's my favorite part of painting."
Wagner doesn't like to use photographs. Instead, She prefers to remember feelings. When she returns home, she transfers them to her canvas.
To capture an Oriental flavor in some of her works, Wagner has experimented with liquid gold leaf and iridescent colors. Dragons, pagodas, and other recognizable imagery occasionally surface. But, for the most part, the painter prefers to use shapes that are not recognizable.
"I don't like to copy nature, so I take artistic license," she said. "My challenge is to see things in a different, more emotional way."
Her lively art doesn't just happen; it's the result of her own individual approach to painting.
Before she starts a new series, she searches for an idea that excites her senses. "Then I get psyched up. Once I start to paint, I don't want to lose momentum; I keep going until it's finished. That way I can keep my work fresh and spontaneous."
She also said, "I never go back to old styles. Each new style is a complete departure from previous ones. With it, I try to take a giant step forward."
No matter where she travels, she constantly looks for new ideas. Early in her painting career, she traveled to Southern Utah. It was there, among the dramatic scenery, that her red-rock series was born. Later came other series she refers to as "desert varnish," "sections of rock faces" and "gem stones and minerals." Soon, she found herself in a phase in which she experimented with metallic paints.
Most of her paintings are done in acrylics because they allow her to work in a larger format. And, unlike oils, they dry rapidly.
To keep her paintings consistent with her intent, Wagner likes to finish one painting at a time. Setting an incomplete painting aside for several days or weeks would be counterproductive for Wagner, since it would be difficult for her to recapture the feelings and momentum she experienced the first time around.
Wagner doesn't limit her approach to using only bold, bright colors. Some of her works have been done in soft pastel shades. Her expertise in decorating and her understanding of the psychology of color tell her that there is a place for "peaceful" paintings.
For example, she said that a peaceful painting would be appropriate in a doctor's waiting room, where patients want to feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible. However, a brightly colored painting with lots of action is just the ticket for a board room, where ideas are exchanged and brainstorming sessions take place.
Over the years, Wagner has gained much respect from her local, national and international clients. "I have had clients in such places as Missouri and Saudi Arabia. They have learned to trust me and my judgment."
After the artist and her husband return from Washington, Wagner will be searching for inspiration to launch a new series. She's planning a one-woman show at the Kimball Art Center in October, 1991.
At this point, no one, not even Wagner, knows what direction her next series will take. But I can guarantee you one thing: It will definitely be a celebration of spontaneity and color.