Pamela Fraser plays with color


On Feb. 8, Williams Hall’s Colburn Gallery was filled with art students and enthusiasts alike for the opening reception of artist and professor Pamela Fraser’s recent exhibit.

The exhibit features three bodies of work that respond to Fraser’s in-depth study of color.  

Likening a kind of “culture” to color, Fraser is interested in the charge that color carries with it. At the talk she used the examples of Starbucks and Taco Bell to illustrate the ways in which color, when detached from its affiliation, still carries the trace of its associated establishment.

A particularly striking series features paintings in which Fraser reacts to a Wasily Kandinsky 1913 questionnaire about the universality of color. These painting showcase unusual combinations of color: circles, squares and triangles (which Fraser jokingly coins “cartoon robot faces”).

“Kandinsky as a reference quickly became less interesting to me than the attempt at [creating] ‘meaningless’ color schemes and the brevity of the painting process,” Fraser said.

By applying 50 coats of gesso to her canvases, Fraser creates opacity in her work that she compares to “virgin snow.”

“There’s an elegance to the shapes when they come out, which is related to the way they float,” Fraser said. “One can tell they were executed quickly, fairly seamlessly.” 

Fraser also emphasized the humor of her work and the subjective beauty that she finds in the buoyancy of her finished pieces.  

“I like when people laugh when seeing my paintings — with them of course, not at them,” she said. “It’s a bit esoteric but I see them as having a kind of deadpan humor.” 

Much of Fraser’s preparatory work requires reading, the source of much of her artistic inspiration. Concerned with the “why” of paintings and the effects it offers, Fraser spoke of the seeming “simplicity” of her work as being a challenge in its philosophical and meditative counterparts.

While each of Fraser’s pieces took less than three minutes to paint, the amount of mental preparation prior to their conception is what Fraser said really drove her exploration. 

The three larger pieces exhibited required larger brush strokes to complete. Fraser found a thrill in the “athleticism” demanded by these pieces. 

Fraser’s exhibit at the Colburn Gallery will be on display through Feb. 18.