Whitney River’s poetic drawings and paintings invite the viewer to share her appreciation for the intricate details found in nature. Through close observation and realistic rendering of organic forms, River creates meditative compositions that evoke the human experience. Since graduating from Yale University in 1995, she has shown extensively throughout New England, and her drawings and paintings are represented in many private and corporate collections.
Beech Leaves Statement
In the Beech Leaves series, I present these natural forms as representatives of our human experience. These paintings and drawings grew out of the COVID pandemic, as an exploration into the notion of a "pandemic pod." Many of us spent months isolated, with a just a few select people. This body of work presents relationships of small, isolated groups, that I hope will resonate as we recognize and process how our own connections may have changed during this time. Some relationships, out of necessity, may have had to drift, while others may have become more intense. Some may be marked by distance and longing, or come into clearer focus, as we have taken a close look at who is with us, both physically and emotionally. The Beech Leaves are ultimately about the relationships that have sustained us, the people with whom we created our protected reality, and with whom we have moved forward.
What initially drew you to your medium/media of choice?
My art teacher in high school taught me to draw with graphite, and the fascination with shading and rendering in extreme detail had me hooked! I have been told that I paint the same way I draw, and I believe that’s true. I use small, round brushes with my oils, the tips of which are certainly reminiscent of my sharpened pencils! I love the workability of oil paint, and the fact that I can layer, tweak, and manipulate my forms until the perfectionist in me is finally happy.
What aspect of your art do you hope really comes across to your audience?
I believe people have a strong need to connect with other people, to try to understand our human existence, and to relate to others. I try to convey my experience of being human, and my need to connect with others, though my imagery.
In addition, I have such a profound respect and appreciation for nature, and for the beauty and wonder of natural forms. I hope that by presenting the natural forms in great detail, rendering them with tremendous care, that I will encourage people to slow down, and to look around them, at the marvels that surround us.
Who inspires you in your life, whether it be artistically or otherwise?
I am inspired by my children. My son, who is thirteen now, is an amazing young musician, who has explored the world through sound for his entire life. Watching him pick up instruments and play around until a melody emerges has been fascinating, since I am so visual; it’s been fantastic to watch someone move through life with sound as their beacon. And my daughter, who is nine, is a wonderful artist, and an incredibly curious, eager, open-minded learner. I am humbled by her ability to sit down and draw absolutely anything that pops into her mind at any given moment. Her imagination and creativity inspire me every day.
What keeps you going as an artist? Where do you find that creative drive?
That is such a good question, and one that I am not sure I can truly answer. I have always been driven to make things. Just like my son makes music out of everything from which he can coax sound, and my daughter draws scenes that pop into her mind, just instinctively, almost. I believe it is my way of making sense of the world, and of finding my place in it.
Tell us about your primary goal for the future. Has this goal changed over time?
My goal as an artist is to continue to explore the natural world around me, and to find resonance in the forms I discover, while simultaneously going inward to try to understand why the images resonate…and then to create elegant, poetic imagery that will strike a chord with people. I have been told many times that my work is meditative. I hope to bring people to a place of calm, beauty, a space to pause, breathe, and connect.