Heather Day’s abstract canvases are both infused with the energy of the environment where they were made, and transcendent of all such circumstances. In one sense, her aesthetic is referential to its own world of painting, with influences of pioneers of early Ab Ex like Helen Frankenthaler and Sam Francis, and a studied, deliberate lexicon of palette and mark-making. A small smear in an otherwise dominant color field, a single arcing brush stroke whose thickness and temperature change from end to end, surface tensions created by layering color, technique, mediums, degrees of translucence, volatility of gesture, and the recession of negative space — all of this speaks to a conscious art historical and studio practice.
But at the same time, her eccentric palette and, in this series in particular, a geological organizing principle to the central forms and planes, do come from somewhere. This work was made earlier this year, as she first decamped from San Francisco to Joshua Tree at the start of the pandemic, experienced the spring and summer of bright blue sky and superblooms, followed by high desert wildfires, and returned home. Throughout the progression of the exhibition, it becomes increasingly easy to imagine her abstractions as evocative landscapes, and her foregrounded jaunty lines drawings as an exertion of control over a series of surreal phenomena.