Palimpsest: Norlynne Coar At Magpie


The process of effacing in order to create something new while what was there before shows through, creating a multi-layered image, and what was there before becomes part of something new. Something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface.

So read the Press Release sent to me by Georgia Gersh at Magpie, announcing her September show.

The artist who chose this term as the title for her upcoming exhibit is Norlynne Coar.

Norlynne  first came to Taos in 1979 and has been drawn back continuously ever since. A  dynamic artist who works in several mediums, she’s also a key person behind the Taos Fall Arts Festival’s creative evolution.

I visited the gallery yesterday as Georgia put the finishing touches on the newly hung show and I can report that it is absolutely gorgeous; the deftly layered surfaces combined with the deeply saturated, yet highly nuanced palette, are a joy to behold. Individually and collectively. It’s a stunning show.

I had already sent Norlynne (whom I had met briefly at Magpie a month or so ago), and she responded promptly.

“Good questions! Here you go — maybe more than you were expecting!”

1) Could you please tell my readers a little about yourself – when and how you arrived in Taos? 

I first moved to Taos, sight unseen, from Marin County (Northern California)  in 1979 when I thought I’d like to go to Paris. But Taos was first on my list. A “prenatal friend” lived here with her husband, and they were building a house in Arroyo Seco; and Ron Davis, a friend of a friend, who had an art supply store on Kit Carson Road invited me to stay at his place. I stayed there for a while and then moved out to Arroyo Hondo to house sit for anthropologists Curt and Polly Schaasfma (also an artist) who were moving to Santa Fe. That was the most severe winter in 40 years, and I weathered through it in an old adobe with a kiva fireplace, wood burning stove that needed the north door open in order to light, running cold water and an outhouse. I worked in the Taos Ski Valley during the winter and Taos News and the original Taos Magazine for the rest of the year, and showed paintings at the Stables.

That was my first residence in Taos. My second residence was from 1989 to 1996. I’d bought some land off Blueberry Hill Road, and not too long afterwards was commissioned to create a lot of work for the San Francisco and Las Vegas Hilton Hotels after which I started building my house and moved back to Taos. After the S&L debacle of 1990-91, which hit my art dealers hard, Rod Goebel hired me to run his gallery. After he died I continued to show work in Santa Fe but also got a real estate licence and worked with Paul Johnson for a few years. Selling real estate wasn’t really my calling. Accepted to film school, I sold my house and went back to Santa Barbara to study photography and film.

In 1997 I started working in the film industry, and it was great until 2008 when there was yet another recession coupled with a dramatic shift in the technology and art of film-making, which began a change like dominoes falling. I started to reinvigorate my career as an artist. Between 2014 and 2017 I was back and forth between Europe (Italy, France, Spain, Portugal), California and Taos. My third residence in Taos began when I abandoned my storage and moved my studio and other things here to Taos a little more than two years ago.

2) Your work is very abstract, very striking – in the Press Release for this show at Magpie, you mention “palimpsest” a process similar to what’s known as pentimento, only purposeful. Could you talk a little about that?  

I have to thank Georgia for suggesting Palimpsest as the title for my show. A handful of pieces are actually titled Palimpsest, but actually my process is like creating a palimpsest. It involves painting, removing and/or covering up, removing and adding in layer upon layer allowing what was there before to show through. I have to risk destroying what I’ve created in order to create a piece that has the texture, the colors, and what is below to be revealed through to the surface. And while “pentimento” is totally descriptive of the process, “palimpsest” also makes a lot of sense because while my pieces appear abstract, to me they are representational. What interests me is below the surface, and the elements I often use (circles, a grid, ensos, gold slices or bars) are like hieroglyphics: they mean something. My friends know how much I love languages and the ability to communicate fluidly in one or another. In my paintings the forms are imbued with meaning like another language.

For example: a grid is indicative of Indra’s Net or web, which suspends and holds all of creation; it also indicates a measure of universe and space. An enso represents the creative energy of the universe and the ongoing or spontaneous act of creation. The gold circles, edges and bars are essentially a different dimension from that of the regular paint and are points of departure. Black holes surrounded by gold, well those are event horizons, and a black hole, in my mind, is something to explore.

3) What continues to inspire you as an artist living and working in Taos? 

Having grown up where the Pacific hits the sand, there is a connection with the ocean, the horizon and sky is apparent in my work: Diving below the surface, gazing beyond the horizon and up into space; delving into the dark and toward the light is my frame of reference. In Taos, the sky is my ocean and the clouds my waves.

I have been influenced by several environments over the last six or seven years. In Taos I am able digest the input and simplify; it’s like I can go on a journey into the painting, into another world, into another space. In Taos, it’s almost a natural inclination to set the world aside, like we’re living at heaven’s door. And I think of lyrics from this song of Sting’s I Was Brought to My Senses: “I walked out this morning, and it was like a veil had been remove from before my eyes, the first time I saw the work of heaven and the land and the hills have been married to the sky. And all around me, every blade of  single grass is calling out to me that our love will always last. And inside every turning leaf is the pattern of an older tree, the shape of our future, the shape of all our history. And out of the confusion where the river meets the sea, things I’ve never seen, things I’ve never seen. I was brought to my senses, I was blind and now that I can see . . . . .And out of the confusion where the river meets the sea, something new will arise, something better will arise . . . “

Norlynne Coar: Palimpsest,  Magpie’s Fall Arts Show, opens at Georgia Gersh’s gallery at the Overland Ranch Complex with a Reception for the Artist this Saturday, September 7th, from 5-7

Opening next door at the Envision Gallery also on Saturday, is a show featuring the work of Hubertus Q. Winnubst. I’ll have a post up with an interview with the artist, tomorrow!

For more information please visit the sites linked below.




All images thanks to Magpie and Norlynne Coar