Artist Mary Lingen makes daily forays into the woods on her property in Backus, Minn., and over the years, her neighbors have offered permission to wander theirs, too. One set of neighbor even made a path into their woods for her, she said.
On her treks, she photographs the wooded landscape and then uses the photos as the basis for her paintings -- studies of the play of shadows and light among the intricate nets of branches.
"If you have the sun coming up behind the leaves," she said, "it's just like stained glass. This is what nature does."
Lingen is one of three artists, along with Joonja Lee Mornes and Nanci Yermakoff, featured at the current show, "Color, Motion and Landscape," at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center Gallery. It runs through Dec. 15.
Though each of the artists has a distinct approach, all draw inspiration from the natural world.
Lingen's landscapes of local woods and swamps are set in various seasons -- summer scenes with a vivid patchwork of colors, bare landscapes in late fall with birch casting a multitude of striped shadows, and the muted colors and stillness of winter.
"You've never seen winter until you go inside the woods," said Lindgren. "It's so clean and quiet."
Nanci Yermakoff of St. Paul has a lake cabin up north on Lake Kabekona, and she grew up near the ocean in New Jersey. Her abstracted waterscapes -- serene scenes with just a hint of a hazy horizon -- are clearly influenced by "that sense of water, space, light and color," she said. A friend, she said, in an apt description, told her that her paintings reminded him of walking by the water in the early dawn when it's not quite light.
She cites influences in Whistler's nocturnes, his indistinct scenes that give of an indication of form, and Rothko's color fields.
Yermakoff builds up the color by layering multiple washes of paint. "It's a back and forth with the watercolor," she said.
"Open space and color fascinate me," she said.
Joonja Lee Mornes of Golden Valley paints large pieces with bold sweeping lines depicting fields of grasses in different light and seasons.
Before she starts painting, Mornes said, she likes to read poetry or philosophy for inspiration, which she has tried to incorporate into her newer work. In these pieces, she paints the writing first and then composes the grasses over them so that the writing becomes barely perceptible.
"I feel like this is a big part of my inspiration for doing it. Why don't I use it?" she said. "I'm not using it to be legible. I'm using it to create a mood."
Other paintings resemble bamboo shades, shallow water areas where tall grass has fallen, and close-ups of glinting light on the water.
"I like it subtle," she said.
The work of the three artists, Mornes said, shows well together, pointing out the use of similar blues and oranges.
"All of us work with light and season. We all have nature as a theme," she said, yet "we have a really different expression."
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities freelance writer.