In her new solo show, “On the Bright Side,” visual artist Pamela Reynolds evokes an aesthetic tradition established in DC: the Washington Color School. It makes Washington the ideal place to display the colorful collection, which opens at Touchstone Gallery on October 30, but the reference wasn’t intentional. When she began the works, she had never heard of the movement.
“It’s a little weird, because it’s like I sort of absorbed it unconsciously,” says Reynolds. Her pieces, which were crafted over two years, are abstract, and feature streaks and splotches of vibrant color that call to mind the work of artists like Sam Gilliam, Kenneth Noland, and Morris Lewis, who pioneered the movement in the mid-20th century.
Reynolds relocated to DC from Boston in 2017. After working as a reporter and editor at the Boston Globe, Reynolds moved to Italy with her husband in 1998. Having long painted as a hobby, she attended the Accademia di Belle Arti in Sassari on an island in Sardinia, where she honed her technique. After returning to the States, she continued her artistic education, taking classes at the Massachusetts College of Art and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, and worked as a journalist, writing about the arts.
“On the Bright Side,” which was inspired by street art, urban signage, and the work of artists like Charline von Heyl and Yayoi Kusama, finds Reynolds abandoning the restraint with which she approached some of her earlier work. She decided not to worry about how the pieces might look in a living room and followed her instinct. The result is a cohesive group of striking and often psychedelic pieces, each in their own brilliant hues, including red, green, and purple. “I’m not exactly sure why I did it, except that I feel as if it’s a reaction against some of the tasteful paintings that I see in so many office buildings,” says Reynolds. “I just wanted to do something that was a little racier than that and take a few more risks.”
The process was freeing for Reynolds. As a writer, she spends much of her time thinking critically, trying to put those thoughts into words. In the studio, her approach is more intuitive. “I like, when I go into the studio, to let loose, and I don’t want to be thinking in any sort of analytical way,” she says.
She hopes the work will offer some relief for viewers, too. With what seems like constant sociopolitical upheaval and the gloom that comes with it, Reynolds wants to offer a little brightness. “I hope that viewers who come in are kind of taken away or transported to a different place,” she says. “And they can just enjoy the paintings and not think about all of that that’s going on right now.”
“On the Bright Side” will be on view at Touchstone Gallery at 901 New York Ave., NW from October 30 until December 1.