Meaning and Purpose: Chapter 5

Powers of Observation


Painters who rely on observation take deeper looks at their subjects, more typically still life, interior and landscape. Josephine Halvorson seems to examine the surface of her subjects at a microscopic level; Catherine Murphy, Susan Jane Walp, and Gillian Pederson Kraag represent intensely personal approaches to painting perceptually. Peri Schwartz brings a mathematical exactitude to the interior of her studio, using grid lines to focus her vision and to record the changes made in her compositions as she studies them.

Studio XXXIII, 2013, Peri Schwartz (b. 1950). Courtesy of the artist and Gallery NAGA

Bridge over the Navarro, 2013, Sandra Mendelsohn Rubin (b. 1947), courtesy of the artist and LA Louver Gallery

Sandra Mendelsohn Rubin’s vision soars high above The Bridge over the Navarro, and her birds-eye view signals we are at least a century removed from the views of Corot, Courbet, and Cole. Still, in regard to her dedication to paying sustained attention, Rubin has described herself as in some ways “a creature of the past.”1 In our age of distraction, paintings that concentrate vision into purpose may offer more significance than just what meets the eye.

  1. Leah Ollman, “Art review: Sandra Mendelsohn Rubin at L.A. Louver,” latimesblogs, May 27, 2011, accessed November 30, 2015,