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Into the woods

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Courtesy photo Laura Von Rosk, pictured in her Schroon Lake studio, is part of an upcoming group show at Lapham Gallery in Glens Falls.

Snow White or Sleeping Beauty might find a safe haven in the enchanted forests of Laura Von Rosk's paintings.

The tranquil landscapes somehow exist in a world between reality and the surreal.

"I like that tension of real and unreal," Von Rosk said.

The artist will show some of her recent work as part of an upcoming group show at the Lower Adirondack Regional Arts Council's Lapham Gallery in Glens Falls. The exhibit, which opens Friday and runs through April 17, also features the work of Kathleen McGowan, Greg Palestri and Lara Sorensen.

Von Rosk's oil-on-birch-panel paintings have an illustrative feel, almost like they could be pages in a children's storybook.

A wall of paintings hanging in her Schroon Lake studio shows a progression of Von Rosk's recent artistic journey through make-believe realms.

"One painting will start a little seed for another. I'll pick up that thread and start another painting," Von Rosk said. "Sometimes I think I'm painting the same painting over and over again. But when I put them together, they are all different."

Something as simple as the play of light can veer Von Rosk on a different path.

"I'm not necessarily trying to tell a story. I'm trying to evoke a feeling or an atmosphere," she said. "You keep painting until things start to form and come."

The birch foundations, which Von Rosk constructs herself, are as much a part of the work as the paint.

"The very beginning of this object is making the panels. I feel like it adds a 3-dimensional element," she said.

The images, partially inspired by the woods and marshes around her Adirondack home, also reference famous works of art.

"Little pieces of things find their way into the paintings. It's kind of mushed up," Von Rosk said.

One painting is a response to a work by 19th-century artist Thomas Cole. Others pick up elements from watercolorist Charles Burchfield or Renaissance-period icons.

The classic inspiration melds with Adirondack scenery in Von Rosk's mind and emerges into a beautiful land.

"These are forms that exist in our world. They are not surreal, because they are not from dreams," she said.

Von Rosk's paintings are a gateway to a magical kingdom.

"I am trying to create a sense of place - a place that is familiar, yet not," she said. "If you were to walk into the landscape, spatially, it wouldn't make any sense."

The paintings have a sense of mystery and romance, balancing fact with fiction.

"I think that's why there's a fairy tale aspect," Von Rosk said, looking around her studio.

For the artist, who works as the gallery director for the Lake George Arts Project, the paintings are like the trail of pebbles Hansel and Gretel left behind as they foraged through a thick forest of trees into unfamiliar territory.

"Painting is an activity that rewards me, although it can be difficult and lonely," she said. "I feel like I have a record of my life. It's like having my diary on the wall."


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