For CCV student and Vermont State Park Ranger Lisa Liotta, her most recent artworks flow directly from her day job. The time she spends observing the flora and fauna at Niquette Bay State Park in Colchester provides her with the subject matter and the inspiration for her stunning watercolors.
Liotta’s paintings are on display in the first floor academic center gallery of CCV Montpelier—be sure to check them out on your way to class or on your lunch break. These paintings are perfect distractions between classes or during the work day, because they transport you out into the natural world.
The expressive color and careful detail capture each subject in its native state. Ripe apples on the branch. An owl in flight. The element that sets many of Liotta’s paintings apart is the incorporation of informative text. These works are vaguely reminiscent of the illustrations in a natural science textbook, if each page was ripped out, creatively rearranged, and framed.
“I love the portability of watercolors. The unpredictable nature of the medium is something I want to embrace, but I often find myself countering it with pen-work to tighten up the final piece,” says Liotta in the artist statement accompanying the exhibit.
Some of the pieces merely include tiny labels, letting the viewer know which species a feather belongs to or where a lush painting of apples was done.
Others integrate full paragraphs of expository text, such as a piece that details the identity of the Yellow Birch. The canvas is separated into multiple sections, which contain a map of where the tree grows, and paintings of branches, leaves, and flowers. Other sections are devoted to text that tells of which animals feed on the Yellow Birch (snowshoe hare, white-tailed deer, and yellow-bellied sap sucker), the number of seeds a single tree produces (between 2.5 and 12.4 million), and the various uses of its wood (lumber, furniture, paneling, plywood, cabinets, handles, and interior doors).
An introduction to the exhibit indicates that Liotta’s approach echoes 18th century works of naturalism. This technique makes for a fascinating viewer experience – art and science fused into works of beautiful originality. The playful intersection of art and science, paint and text, makes the viewer assess the emotional and intellectual impact of each piece.
Liotta’s show effectively offers a cross-section of an ecosystem: Niquette State Park in watercolors. Each piece playfully addresses some aspect of the habitat–from a particular species of squirrel to a scientific chart displaying the elevations at which you find different trees. The works capture a unique Vermont sensibility, filtering an iconic piece of the landscape into a series of watercolors.
Liotta recently visited a Watercolors class to discuss her work and give students a chance to ask her questions in an informal setting. It hasn’t been long since she was one of those eager students, studying environmental science, already building a foundation for her art.
The exhibit opened in September, and will be run through the end of the fall semester. A reception is currently being scheduled, the details of which will be published on ccv.edu.