You can practically hear the music swelling and see a spinning Julie Andrews in Maria Von Trapp drag. The hills are alive in Ariel Lee’s Alpine Glow in the Valley, and they’re giving us life by proxy. The SoCal-based painter’s paradisiac 20x200 print debut sums up so much of what we love about her work: the pointillistic brushwork in the details, the dialed-up, almost otherworldly earth tones, the clever approach to color in shadow creation, the way she conveys an awe-inducing vista. It’s all so good (and somehow even better in our biggest print sizes if you ask us).
Landscapes are Lee’s main muse, and the liberties she takes when painting them depict a distinctive point of view—a singular vibe. In Alpine Glow in the Valley the perspective is quite centered, the highest visible points bookending the image at nearly equal height, the eye funneled straight through the valley toward the peak at the horizon. This roots the viewer in the middle of it all, an immersive, self-aware position. How Lee layers the fixtures of the landscape further draws the eye in, leaving more distant details up to the imagination. The way she builds darker colors over lighter delicately defines the view: a subtler suggestion of a dense treeline, the implication of snow-frosted mountain faces. The colors of her shadows are somewhat unexpected, an interesting way to convey light as it transforms the landscape.
Lee’s color choices in general command attention. They’re bold, but not off-the-wall. Instead, they feel like distilled, concentrated versions of the multitudes of hues one might encounter actually standing in the environment she portrays in Alpine Glow in the Valley. The patchwork quilt of wildflowers that fills the foreground draws from the local flora, but there’s an exaggerated quality to the lime greens and rusty reds, creatively coupled, compartmentalized and colliding in a colorful frenzy. The saturated dots that Lee has used add to the animate impression, buzzing throughout that lower quarter of the frame. She’s handpicked potent tones that pump up the effect of nature’s palette here: chartreuse, ice blue, hunter green. A peachy sky suggests a sunset or the golden hour, as do the terra cotta shadows creeping over the mountaintops. All together, these choices arrive at an image that lives very much in a liminal zone between fantasy and reality.
Going beyond the representational, Alpine Glow in the Valley is a submersion inside the artist’s own intimate appreciation for the outdoors. As an avid hiker, camper, and climber, Lee has a profoundly personal relationship with nature that’s directly reflected in her artwork. Looking at her edition, we’d describe that relationship as positive, restorative, invigorating and inspiring. More than painting an explicit picture, Alpine Glow in the Valley leans toward the atmospheric experience of being surrounded by nature. In turn, Lee captures something more ephemeral about the beauty of that experience—its power to stupefy and pacify, to surprise and renew. Just imagine one of her prints doing that same work on your walls.
With art for everyone,