If you were to dismiss the floral studies of Linda Etcoff and the knitted pieces of Laurie Lambrecht as mere women’s work, you would not only be incorrect but would miss out on two worthy exhibitions at the Drawing Room gallery in East Hampton.
It helps to have a little background on both, particularly the work of Ms. Lambrecht. A photographer by training, she has also had a distinguished career as a knitwear designer. These two metiers crossed paths when she found herself inspired by the tropical wilderness around Captiva, Fla., where she is the photographer for the archives of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation’s artists-in-residence program.
Her abstracted photos of pure dark and light-infused color, collected from the Florida landscape, became the inspiration for a series of knitted work in cotton, wool, mohair, and silk yarns. Taking the concept one step further, she then photographed the results, bringing them back to their two-dimensional source.
Her exhibition consists, first, of those first photographs, each called “Jungle Road.” They are light-filled and diffuse, some reminiscent of Tiffany windows. There is a strong sense of place, even while the details may not describe much, and they are intense in tone and hue.
Then come the knitted pieces, rich in texture and begging to be touched. The easel-sized knits channel the blues, greens, and earth tones of their progenitors and are called “Compositions.”
Finally, the last photographs, titled with months, capturing much of the texture of their models, even in a perfectly flat medium. The prints are overall larger than the knits but include a lot of white space, so that the image seems to preserve the same dimensions as the source.
The entire exercise is an illustrated reflection on artistic inspiration and how one idea or image can morph and change as an art object through the prisms of a creative vision. There is something so satisfying in seeing the progression through to the end.
Ms. Etcoff is an accomplished painter of interiors and still-life elements, but her work really comes alive in her pastel, charcoal, and crayon drawings. Functioning more as studies, these drawings of sunflowers, amaryllis, paperwhites, hyacinth, and cornflowers tend to be serial snapshots not tied to any setting or defined space.
As such, they seem to be pure flights of personal whim and fancy, as if she is racing to capture a certain element of the flower’s being before the light changes or her brain channels it differently. The drawings have a brisk pace and can be busy with images or very, very spare. But they never scrimp on detail or saturated color.
There are yellows in “Siena Sunflowers” that are so pure and beautiful they seem improbable, yet completely naturalistic within her composition. The reds of her amaryllis are equally distinct and striking. But the works with very little color have a similar transcendence. On the surface, these works may seem minor in the great scheme of artistic endeavor, but in some ways they say everything about why one sets about to create or recreate a world visually.
Ms. Etcoff’s purity of purpose and its outcome testify to a creative mind at work, channeling information and using it to make drawings that redefine the object depicted into a preternatural subject elevated beyond its highest form. While doing nature one better, she then smudges these images, erasing or even sanding the surface, giving them an ethereal air, again all her own.
These two shows will be at the gallery through Sunday.