Color, Lifeforce, and Place: Landscapes of Margaret García

Waiting/Esperando, 2019, Oil on clayboard,  48”x 36”

By Karen Mary Davalos

Over the past four decades, Margaret García has developed her own color theory. She sees purple in flesh, sapphire blue in the trees, and aqua green in the urban pavement.

While this perspective might suggest a psychedelic scene, Garcia is known for blending and combining paint to create harmonious and inviting landscapes or deeply reflective portraits.
Her color theory requires an understanding of high key color radiant and how their luminous and lustrous qualities work together.

The list of colors she recommends to the students of her oil painting workshop, which she teaches weekly at her studio and gallery in Highland Park, is evidence of her vision: Violet, Dioxine Purple, Alizarim Crimson, Cadmium Red Deep, Cadmium Red Medium, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Yellow light, Phtalo Green, Phtalo Blue, and Ultramarine Blue.

More tellingly, she finishes the list with important instructions about white, black, and somber colors. “You can buy a tube of white but you won’t use it for a while. No Black. No Umbers. No Siennas. No designer flesh tones.” Clearly, nothing is black or white for García, but more significantly for her color theory, she can darken or lighten an image without black or white.

She changes mood and tone, even chiaroscuro, by shifting relationships and proximities between colors, such as blue and red. When white appears in her landscapes, particularly her nightscapes, it has more than a hint of yellow. However, it is the contrasting use of blue and purple that make her whites illuminate a scene.

Elotero de Noche, 2019, Oil on wood panel, 48”x 36”
Margaret García’s color theory is most apparent in her Plein Aire paintings, which reveal the living pulse of the landscape. Through landscapes, Garcia uncovers the depth of life and the relationships of a place. Each work records the hidden energy of an environment; she captures the aura that emanates from objects and nature, buildings and palm trees.

With García’s eyes trained to see lifeforce, we may all begin to appreciate the urgency of our connections to each other and this world. Her work will enliven any space with its vibrancy and harmonics attuned to life itself.

Karen Mary Davalos is professor of Chicano and Latino Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She has written four books about Chicana/o art. She currently serves on the board of directors at Self Help Graphics & Art.

Margaret Garcia Solo @ ChimMaya, an exhibition of work spanning four decades, will be on view at ChimMaya Gallery, 5283 E Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90022, through Oct. 5th. Hours:  11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday. Phone: (323) 869-8881.


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