Since her last exhibition at Beacon Gallery in 2018, “Layers and Light,” Lori Mehta has continued to capture the beauty in everyday moments. Emerging from a life of living near the beach, Mehta’s imagery is categorized by the often weightless moments associated with fabric being caught in the breeze. Full of exaggerated light and shadow, Mehta pulls forward each slight hint of color to create bold and graphic images.
Like the work featured in “Layers and Light,” Mehta’s newest body of work also seeks to strike a chord of familiarity in the viewer. Mehta’s favorite comment to hear about her work is that her images remind her viewers of a particular time in their own lives. This sense of memory is essential to Mehta’s artistic practice, as the seemingly mundane moments she captures are echoes of her own lifetime. In recalling her daughter’s graduation, she comments that while she might not necessarily remember the event, she does remember the way the light would strike her daughter’s hair. These recognizable gestures and unsung moments, often seen out of the corners of our eyes, are some of Mehta’s favorite memories. In this way, Mehta’s body of work is a reflection of the memories she’s collected along the way. For the viewers of “Float,” Mehta hopes that viewers think only about what they see instead of thinking about what she was trying to create, as the viewer and their own narrative are essential aspects of Mehta’s practice.
Coming to painting with a background in printmaking, a medium defined by differentiation in color, Mehta’s approach to color defines much of her artistic practice. Beginning an image with one particular shade of a color, she works outward from that initial swatch, as Mehta’s eye sees the subtle ways that colors inform each other. In the end, her final images include countless shades and hues of each color, where colors that appear similar to the eye may have subtly different compositions – as simple and as nuanced as an additional drop of Indian Yellow. This attention to color comes at every stage of Mehta’s painting practice. When preparing for a new painting, Mehta would bring a sketchbook alongside a camera when she captured her reference images. Stating that there are so many colors not caught in a photograph, Mehta emphasized the importance of color notations to best capture the subtle shifts of color later found in her paintings.
In the past couple of years, Mehta has also developed aspects of her painting practice, focusing on compositional elements. In thinking more about composition, she can “look for shapes or color that might dominate too much,” which she then crops to allow them to bleed off the canvas, creating a more dynamic, energetic composition. She has also been working on breaking her work down into even more hard-edged shapes, which she paints with her trademark very subtle shifts of color to create flow amidst her image. Her attention to each aspect of her work, from color to composition, is echoed in the thoughtful nature in which she titles her pieces. Often pulling from idioms or slightly obscure synonyms, Mehta works to capture the innate qualities of her piece when titling. An example of this is found in her award-winning piece, “Grasp the Nettle,” which draws on a British idiom that encourages anyone faced with difficulty to approach it head-on.
When thinking about where her work is going next, Mehta recalls advice given to her by fellow Massachusetts artist, Mary Moquin. Moquin cautioned against limiting artistic practice based on what sells, as it can create a reputation for the artist, where they’re known for one particular niche, whether that be style or particular subject matter. In responding to this notion, Mehta stressed the importance of evolution over production and the importance of continually evolving creativity. Mehta is looking towards experimenting with composition even further, cropping her images in such a way that they straddle the line between abstraction and realism.
In the past years, Mehta has been recognized for her creativity through awards and exhibitions. She has won a cumulative 45 awards, 19 of them at national shows. Her latest award, through the South Shore Art Center, was for her piece “Grasp the Nettle.” Mehta was also recently recognized at Cape Cod Arts Center as a Master Artist. She is grateful to have two solo exhibitions this year alone, “Float” at Beacon Gallery, and another this fall at Edgewater Gallery in Vermont.
Lori Mehta’s “Float” will be on view at Beacon Gallery from May 7 to June 13. Visitors to the show can find additional information about Lori and her work on her website, http://www.lorimehtaart.com.