The Work of Silence

For the record, Tabby Ivy’s paintings reached me sooner than Tabby Ivy. What reached me in her paintings is their essential quiet, their silence. Silence in a work of art is something I hold dear. If there is silence in a painting—or in a poem or play or prose or a piece of music—then I trust that silence will touch me. In paintings such as “Gently the River Flows,” “Autumn Interlude,” “River Reverie” and others, silence speaks both within and on the other side of representation. I am drawn to the quiet of these places. In “Gently the River Flows,” the river ebbs through a world colored by autumn. The willows—or maybe they are cottonwoods—have, like the sky, turned golden. Across the river from these trees is a rise of conifers, inviting our eyes to look upriver and see the distant line of the horizon. There we can either stop or go further. For all that begs me to stop in this painting, it is the silence of the work that keeps me.

Gently the River Flows

To recognize this silence, I must see what I have referred to as the other side of representation. Look closely, then look closer. See beneath the sky reflected on the river. Look through the sky, as the brush strokes invite us to look. Then look again at the edge of the horizon, at the lineation of what could be another shore. Notice how it is graced by something farther away than the painter can paint. This is where silence begins. They are real, these places within the painting and the silence they echo. They are as real as the painting, the painter, and the person looking.

Autum Interlude

I can discover similar moments in other of Ivy’s paintings. Notice the spaces painted into “Autumn Interlude.” Or see how light graces the treetops in “River Reverie.” Space and light and the silence they carry are what came to me first in Tabby Ivy’s work. It was later that I meet the painter herself. She is more gracious than I could have imagined. She is warm. She shares and listens to stories.

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