(by Christine Foster. Originally published in Wesleyan Magazine, Dec. 10, 2014)
Professor of Art Tula Telfair’s epic and massive landscape paintings fill the walls of Wesleyan’s Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. They call forth our memories of the most stunning scenic vistas—craggy mountains topped by threatening clouds; impossibly moist, green valleys; icebergs jutting hundreds of feet out of the freezing aqua waters below. From a distance, they appear to be photographs, but they aren’t. These views don’t even exist, except in Telfair’s mind and on her canvases.
Still—even knowing they are imagined— the viewer is tempted to look for signs of reality. The glint of shimmering gold on one mountainside catches your eye. You wonder: are those lights of a house perched on the side of that cliff? Or maybe it’s the sun glinting off granite slopes at sunset?
Then you approach the painting—wider than you are tall. As you draw near you see that the tiny gold threads have vanished. In their place are strips of dark paint, ridge-like, and they almost look sticky. The painterly detail becomes obvious and as stunning in its own way as the photo-like perfection was from afar.
So it is with Tula Telfair’s art and maybe even her life: it looks stunning from a distance, but different and still spectacularly beautiful the closer you get…
Watch a new video featuring Telfair below: