Debra Ramsay: Painting Time

June 22 - September 24, 2018

You might be surprised to learn that this installation—comprising a profusion of colorfully painted and curled strips that pile, unfurl, and tumble across the floor—is a landscape. Yes, a landscape. Debra Ramsay generates a strict set of rules to guide her creative process for each new body of work. For this installation, she distilled her daily walks in the woods to pure color. What you are seeing is her color record across four seasons.

Painting Time is at once reductionist and exuberant. While Ramsay reduces the complexity of color change in nature to momentary snapshots over a year of seasons, the swirling heaps of acrylic-painted film evoke nature’s abundance. That the conceptual rigor of her work doesn’t overpower the aesthetic pleasure of the experience is a testament to Ramsay’s artistic prowess. Painting Time exists in the aesthetic realm—a place where interpretation is nuanced and fluid, and where understanding deepens each time an artwork is experienced, revisited, or discussed.

— Mara Williams, Chief Curator

This artwork is about time. I used the landscape as a time-keeping device by documenting the change in its colors at the same location in New Berlin, New York, over the course of a year. I think of the work as a pure landscape, reduced to the actual colors I found there.

To make the work, I first captured colors from nature photographically. I returned to the same trail in the forest in the spring, summer, fall, and winter of one year. Each time I walked the trail, I took a photo every 100 steps, resulting in 18 photos on each walk. I then selected one color from each photo to translate into a paint color. Seventy-two distinct colors mark this year of time.

As I worked on this project, I was reminded of Josef Albers’s statement: “There is a profound harmony in the immeasurable spectrum of color.”

— Debra Ramsay