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Impressions of Soft Light, Yellow Background 4

Eileen Dorsey (1982 -)

About the artist:

 Eileen Dorsey lives and works in Cleveland, active on the local scene and beyond. In 2018 and again in 2020, she was named Scene Magazine's "Best Artist" and in 2020 also "Best Artist" by Cleveland Magazine, and then, in 2022, the Mayor of Westlake declared July 31 "Eileen Dorsey Day! She completed the B.F.A. degree at Kent State, identifying adjunct professor Chuck Basham as her most influential teacher.  In 2020, she and Basham shared the stage in a 2-person show of their paintings at the Massillon Museum. While both have produced many striking landscapes, one could never confuse the two, as each has a distinctive style and seeks inspiration from different sources, but it was a remarkable tribute to the formative relationship of teacher and pupil, often mentioned but seldom demonstrated.

Where you can find more works by this artist:

Dorsey's work also includes figurative and abstract subjects, and she has been successful in seeking public commissions in and around Cleveland, such as the murals at Flannery's Pub, and, in collaboration with Garrett Weider, those at the Old Brooklyn Blooms Mural Project at 3310 Broadview Road, and a kind of performance/live action piece at the Great Lakes MallDuring the pandemic, she was hired to paint a three-story mural of redwood trees in the Redwood Apartments and Living Corporate Headquarters in Independence, an astonishing achievement in scale.

In addition to her well-maintained website, Eileen Dorsey opens her studio as a gallery for the monthly art walk at the 78th Street Studios where you can visit on third Fridays.

Photo credits

portrait: Chad Cochran

works: Greg Wilson


More about Impressions of Soft Light

Work title, date:  Impressions of Soft Light, 2017, 2020

Materials and dimensions: oil reduction on canvas, 41" x 67"

Location at Summa: Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, Northeast hallway, outside Lactation Room

About the art:

This wide, encompassing canvas draws us into a forest scene where the light is low and the sinuous tree trunks rendered in colors both descriptive (green moss growing on some of them) and expressive (pink outlines and details denoting the diminishing light).  We experience a feeling of calm, but also of something almost magical, as though almost anything could happen. The apparent calm veils a level of mystery, mostly controlled by artist Eileen Dorsey's choice of color and color intensity, as well as the quality of her mark-making: She paints with oil colors but uses a palette knife -- not brushes -- and smaller tools that permit her to "play" in the impasto of the paint and energize it as well.  She says she has always been drawn to work where the marks have a confidence in them.

Expressionist approaches to representing landscape were first undertaken by the early twentieth-century German artists collectively called The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter). These included Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and August Macke, both of whom zealously explored new color relationships within landscape and figural compositions.Dorsey, who also produces work that is figurative, as well as work that is fully abstract, seems to share with them this drive to explore color and form in expressive ways that originate in the artist's mind.

Dorsey's particular technique, oil reduction, in the two works in the Summa Collection, involves working out her composition on canvas with oil paints, then flipping the canvas and applying light pressure to transfer it onto a panel that has been washed in acrylic paints, a medium with different requirements and effects.  The original oils lose some detail, but she finds an energy in the process and continues to work the reversed composition until it reaches the level of animation for which she aims.


More about Yellow Background 4

Work title, date:  Yellow Background 4, 2017, 2020

Materials and dimensions: oil reduction on panel, 32” x 48

Location at Summa:   Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion ground floor, outside SG 103


About the art:

Artist Eileen Dorsey is inspired by the landscapes of Expressionist artists such as Egon Schiele and Alice Neel in her choice vivid, fanciful colors and stylized forms. Both artists used the energy of the painter's brush to create an impression, even perhaps a translation of an observed moment, and this is noteworthy as well in Dorsey's paintings, 'though she tends to work with a palette knife rather than a brush.  We can note the calligraphic markings on tree trunks, the leaves represented as vibrating areas of single color, the limited shading and dream-like motion of all.  Without having to identify this as a particular place, we intuit that we have experienced an autumnal moment just like this.  

Dorsey points to the importance of regular walks she takes in the Cleveland Metroparks for paintings such as this one.  Along the way, she creates "resource photos" that capture moments of light, of forms, of composition that strike her as having potential for the kind of work she likes to create.  From these, she begins individual canvases, but she ranges far beyond the photographic image to explore formal matters that concern her as an artist, such how does she depict the trees to suggest their natural movement and incorporate her responses to it?  Or how to develop the palette that she has chosen, here one of primary colors -- yellow-blue-red -- and then secondary colors: green-purple- orange?  The fiery yellows that, while deep in the background, dominate our first impression of this painting, just feel like October in northeastern Ohio!


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