As a realist painter, Patricia Chidlaw has long been attracted to reflection in water.
The well-known Santa Barbara artist is known for, among other things, her paintings of urban and urban-adjacent landscapes at twilight and dawn, often incorporating the changes of light reflected in either a puddle, a river or a swimming pool.
Over the course of her decades-long career, she has made paintings of neon lights, street lights and both sun and moonlight reflected in water.
For her current exhibition, “The Pool Show,” at the Sullivan Goss Gallery through July 25, Ms. Chidlaw decided to explicitly showcase the ever-changing reflections that occur in swimming pools at all times of the day.
“The choice of swimming pools for subject matter was at least partly brought about by my inability to travel for two years because of the pandemic. Since I didn’t have access to my usual old roadside views (neon signs, motels, empty deserts, railroad tracks), etc., I was looking for things to paint closer to home,” she said.
“I’ve always liked swimming pools. They are, after all, an integral part of the motel landscape. The pools also fit into my interest in reflective surfaces as the still water can become a mirror. At night, pools, lit from underwater, glow like neon, and I was surprised and delighted to discover now pools are being illuminated with LED lights that can segue through a whole spectrum of colors!”
Susan Bush, contemporary curator at the Santa Barbara gallery, said, ”When the gallery was brainstorming to find a name for this exhibition, we initially wanted a title that would evoke the refreshment of water on a warm summer day, or the ubiquity of swimming pools in Southern California, or the playfulness of a suburban backyard poo. But we realized that going forward, most everyone would probably refer to this exhibition as ‘The Pool Show.’ So we went with that — the simplest description of some very compelling paintings.”
“The Pool Show” offers up water in all its forms and colors: still water, rippling water, nighttime purple water, high noon turquoise blue water.
“The paintings are split evenly — half with figures in the pools, half without. The beach ball, an icon of pooltime parties, makes an appearance in two paintings of perfectly still water, floating quietly alone after the action has passed,” Ms. Bush noted.
Ms. Chidlaw was born in San Francisco and moved to Germany six months later when her father was deployed for a three-year tour of duty. This began many years of travel and nomadic family life as her father’s career as an officer took them on a tour of the world.
Much of Ms. Chidlaw’s childhood was spent looking out the windows of a Chevrolet as the family drove through Europe and the United States.
Her earliest exposure to art was in Europe at the age of 13 when her father was stationed in France. Ms. Chidlaw and her mother would visit cathedrals and museums as well as flea markets and shops, educating her eye for art and her sensibility to things that are time-warm and reflect a sense of the past.
In 1969, she came to Santa Barbara to earn her bachelor’s degree in fine art from UCSB. She put down roots in Santa Barbara and has been exhibiting widely throughout Southern California for decades.
Sullivan Goss has represented the artist since 2016 but started working with her in 2007 for the gallery’s “The Urban Myth” exhibition.