Images captured on canvas by renowned Idyllwild artist Darcy Gerdes are, quite simply, breathtaking. Her talent expresses itself in an array of vivid wildlife scenes conveyed in acrylic, rivaling in scope the perennial beauty of nature herself. They somehow appear both magnified and distant.
Visionary wisdom inspires her soft brushstrokes and richly layered dimensional color, and the result is exquisite detail.
Also included in Gerdes’ retrospective are charming children’s illustrations which sold worldwide in the early years of her career. The collection then gives way to a flourish of fairy and fantasyscapes, unconstrained by conventional reality, and influenced by the empowered women featured in Nordic mythology.
“Paintings come to me in a dream and I paint them in my head,” Gerdes muses in her charming Idyllwild studio. Floor to ceiling north-facing glass invites regal light, affording an oblique angle across a magical, forested enclave. “Inspiration can strike anywhere,” she adds. “If I love the theme, it comes to life.”
Wildlife is one of Gerdes’ favorite themes. An enchanting feeling is experienced in the presence of her piece entitled “Moonlight Magic” where a contented fawn is curled up in purple flora in a mystical, moonlit forest.
One senses alchemy here, and there’s no doubt about that in Gerdes’ mind. She attributes it to the water that she bathed in moonlight before mixing it with LiquiTex acrylic paint.
A resident of Idyllwild since 2001, Gerdes’ love for this forest also inspires the whimsical collection captured on canvas titled “Idygnomes.”
“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” This George Carlin quote inspired her painting entitled “Wild Solitude.” In this piece, we witness a snowy forest meadow awash in blue moonlight. A lone wolf sits in rapt homage to an alluring sentinel: La Luna. Breathtaking for its majesty, the wolf seems to silently exude, “I am here.” Implicit in moonlight’s glowing response, “I see you.”
“My treatment of animals on canvas is my way of honoring the majesty of these creatures which have inhabited this planet long before us,” Gerdes acknowledges.
Painting for as long as she can remember, Gerdes was drawing caricatures since before first grade. A challenging childhood led to an inner world of imagination that manifested itself through art.
While in elementary school, her work was exhibited in Laguna Beach, inspiring her to continue sketching. Mrs. Mason, “a fabulous high school teacher” and graduate of Boston College Arts, directed her training in realism, and a Disney animation artist living next door inspired whimsy and showed Gerdes that art could sustain her professionally.
Initially, Gerdes’ illustrative work was spotted by an artist from Figi Graphics who asked her to produce backgrounds for her art. This proved a perfect opportunity for earning a living and was the genesis for 15 years illustrating for four different companies. She successfully progressed into acrylic, watercolor and colored pencil fine art when accepted by jury for Laguna Art-A-Fair.
Always a supporter of the community and in salute to the Art Alliance of Idyllwild’s Deer Sightings project, Gerdes painted the legendary story “Spirit of Taquitch” on a life-sized deer located in front of Middle Ridge Winery. And for wine enthusiasts, her deer’s image decorates the label of a signature bottle of the Middle Ridge 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The first exhibition devoted to the full scope of Gerdes’ career will be featured in the upper level of Middle Ridge Winery Tasting Gallery, beginning Wednesday, Jan. 23. It presents an unparalleled opportunity to study Gerdes’ work, which spans nearly five decades, beginning with her early illustrative works created for Leanin’ Tree Greeting Cards and on products carried at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Hallmark Cards and J.C. Penny, to her current wildlife and landscape paintings.
The show will be held concurrently with Middle Ridge Winery’s “The Idyllwild Collection: Obsessions” exhibit and runs through April 21. An artist’s reception will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, and is open to the public.