For artist Terri deNatale, anywhere she's lived has afforded her connections to the natural world that find a prominent place in her paintings.
Whether it's her native Northeast Minnesota, a longtime home in Maine or now in Linden, Texas, where she and her husband Joe now live, each place has given her landscapes to explore with her art, which she's done in a variety of ways, willing to adopt new techniques and methods.
DeNatale's work now hangs at Texas A&M University-Texarkana's John F. Moss Library for an exhibition with a title that speaks to her geographical shift: "Go West: From Maine to Texas." The exhibit will be up through February.
When you first step into the library entrance, two of the first paintings you'll see to the right in a cozy seating alcove have four eyes of the bovine variety, staring intently at anyone who looks at these two large cattle canvases, you might call them.
Both of them—one a longhorn, the other a Brahman—are her neighbor's cattle, and the forthrightness of their gaze deNatale captures is striking, appreciative and charming. They're paintings she's done since moving here. One, titled "Gentle Giant," is oil and cold wax, which lends it texture.
"Ever time I'd go by he's just this big, gentle giant, and he's just so outstanding," deNatale said about his unique presence. "Really just big, gentle and kind of kept everything calm."
Elsewhere in her work, she works with encaustic, which is done with pigment and hot wax. You see it in a piece called "Looking Up," for example, which captures a view of maple trees rising above. "It's quite a different process than most artists use," deNatale said of this methodology, which involves using both different layers and the use of plates to melt the wax.
"We had a lot of maples in Maine," deNatale said. "We tapped them, and so we had wonderful maple syrup. It was just so beautiful."
Nature is her great subject, deNatale saying she was pretty much raised outside. Growing up, she was a skier on the U.S. Ski Team who eventually went pro. Her sister Cindy also skied on the U.S. Ski Team, three times participating in the Olympics.
In her artist statement, deNatale talks about how her "love of the outdoors was nurtured as a child," and that she's able to express it with many different textures, color combinations and mediums in her art, "where the viewer may become involved emotionally as I do with nature."
This diversity of approach is one thing that feeds her as an artist. She's worked on her paintings both outdoors, responding to what she sees around her, and in her studio, working from sketches or digital photographs.
"The range of mediums and techniques keeps me involved and motivated. Encaustic and watercolor are especially exciting. At times, I am able to start a painting not knowing what it will become and extract ideas through the various movements the pigment presents to me," she writes.
Standing in front of her art at the exhibition, deNatale said her favorite mediums are watercolor and oil. She enjoys collage, too. "Watercolor is what I started with and it's a very convenient medium to travel with and do little quick sketches. It's not as toxic as oil and some of the other mediums," she said.
DeNatale is also mindful of how the medium works with the content and the base where she applies the paint, such as canvas, paper or a wooden panel.
In all, the exhibition has 38 works on the library walls, plus a few additional prints for sale. Her subjects range from the Northern Lights to driftwood, an excavator to a favorite family dog.
What brought her and her husband to Texas? The weather, she said, on a atypically cold and rainy February day. They looked at a few Southern states, but they fell in love with a little spot in Linden with acreage for their labs to run and a pond. The lakes, rivers and hills of this area remind them of Maine.
Since arriving here, deNatale has found success in area art shows, too, in places like Marshall and Hughes Springs, Texas, Ashdown, Ark., and up in Oklahoma at the Owa-Chita Festival. It's the sort of success she found in Maine, too, where she achieved her bachelor's degree at the University of Maine, graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
Looking at the A&M-Texarkana exhibition, you'll likely be struck how differently she works from painting to painting. She appears equally comfortable and confident no matter the direction she heads in these works.
Some artwork is done from deNatale's imagination, some from a photo, some out "en plein air" and some with a live model. Variety and diversity are where it's at for her.
"I don't like getting stuck in any one type of either medium or method because it limits my ability to express whatever I want to express. And it's more exciting the more tools I have to use," deNatale said.
To get a sense of the lively places her art explores, check out "Go West" this month at A&M-Texarkana.