Janet Lage responds to visual sensations she experiences in the natural world. The genesis of
these sensations is often simple tools or materials such  as concrete walls, vines, nails or
hinges. Her recent work was inspired by piles of rope she happened to see sprawled on the
lawn at a roadside shop. Rather than compose a “still life” of, say, rope, Lage relies on the
unpredictable visual stimuli she stumbles upon while doing other things. Her work conveys that
natural thrill of spontaneity perhaps because it is not a conscious objective but, rather, a natural
outcome of process right from the start.

This is no accident and much less a result of some sixties notion of feel-good intuition. Lage
begins both paintings and drawings with a rather rigid armature of parallel lines. On this
foundation, she builds layers of rhythmic lines, organic shapes and washes of color. Handling
the consistent flow of lazy curves and organic ellipses takes an athletic control that only
appears effortless. Lines swerve in and out over and under, containing color shapes and
interrupting them. The imprimatur of rectilinear stripes fades into oblivion and, then, rises to
prominence. The geometric and organic are at odds in Lage’s work yet both seem dependent
on the other.

Her palette, too, has an air of incongruity. While appearing harmonious at first glance, colors
shift from light grays to perky pinks and fertile greens, and then mutate in the direction of
progressively heavier browns, ending in black. The optimism of fecund growth wrestles with
decay and death. The character of the lines under-lapping and overlapping each other
progress from large, open loops defining and sub-defining lighter value shapes.  Lurking closely
behind, however, smaller shapes populate darker fields and the once free lyricism of linear
movement becomes constrained and constricted. A pressing tension bordering on strangulation
builds and challenges the organic freedom dominating the composition.  

While lines in Janet Lage‘s work seem to float on a somewhat shallow field, neither earth or
water. The overlap of lines on top of others serves to create a spatial hierarchy organizing near
to far.  This, too, is foiled when the seemingly weak lines loop over the bold pushing the visually
advancing unconvincingly behind. Thus, what should be the top layer is frustrated or maybe
not, the strong pleading the weak to “Tie me Down”.

Essay by:       
Nancy P. Gladwell,  painting chair,
Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts
June 2007