“Each of Thielhelm’s paintings originates on a thick, bare birch panel. She works the panel over with viscous gesso, which she blends and smoothes until the surface becomes like a velvety chalkboard. The waves begin to appear with slow, lapping strokes of oil paint. Gradually, these shallow pools of placid waves dissolve into deep oceans.
Thielhelm’s solarplate etchings are created using an alternative etching process that is nontoxic and eco-friendly. The process begins with a photograph taken by the artist, which is burned onto a light-sensitive plate using only water and sunlight. Thielhelm uses an array of oil-based etching inks to create a vibrant spectrum of colorful seas. Since photographs of the ocean are essentially reflections of sunlight on water, Thielhelm’s use of a process that depends upon light and water to bring her oceans to life is especially harmonious.
Using simply paint and wood and rendering only water and light, Thielhelm’s reductive paintings are meditations on the interaction of basic elements. They bring to mind notions of the Romantic sublime, of hovering over a nameless sea where light dancing on the water’s surface communicates both nothing and everything.
MaryBeth Thielhelm lives and works in New York City. She has had four solo shows at Sears-Peyton Gallery starting in 2003. The AB Dow Museum of Art and Science in Midland, MI, granted her a solo exhibition in 2010. Her most recent group exhibitions include Out of the Dark Room at the Irish Museum of Art, Dublin; New Artists, Bentley Gallery, Arizona, 2007; Black and White Works form the Permanent Collection at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Missouri, 2006. Her work is included in the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, The Hunterdon Museum of Art, The Orlando Museum of Art, American Express, Barclay’s Global, Merrill Lynch, General Electric, Pfizer, Schwab institutional and US Department of State collections. Thielhelm received her BFA with honors from Syracuse University in 1988.