Madeline Mikolon's abstract paintings, carefully constructed from ribbon-like lines and broader, gestural strokes of pure tones, allude to landscapes without specifically rendering them.
"I've been in Montana about two years now, and I can see my work evolving and becoming more influenced by landscape," said Mikolon, a Southerner who studied art in New York City.
She sees some of her new paintings – gouache, watercolor and acrylic on wood panel – as sites she's witnessed, like replicas, recollections or "a memory of a brief space in time," she said.
Some of the titles hint at their inspirations: "Pop-up Hillside," or "Ravine," while only implying the physical world, often through a small focal point of lines, each of which drift and dissipate into their own directions.
Mikolon works on stark white backgrounds that accentuate the ribbon-like flow of her lines. The blank base accentuates the way "colors and lines trail off" and unfold organically, she said. The works she's showing at Bernice's Bakery this month are predominantly on wood panel instead of canvas. She prefers the harder surface and the immediacy, plus the sharper lines.
She titled her show, "Junction, Line and Form," after some of her methods. In her work, the lines are a meeting ground upon those white backgrounds, she said. "That meeting ground between two forces is an important junction" between negative and positive space.
The "way that a line unfolds or the natural movement" of her hand often guides the composition.
Mikolon came to Montana from New York City, where she lived for about six years during and after getting her degree from the Pratt Institute, a prestigious art school she attended on scholarship.
Before college, her talents earned her attendance to the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, a residential school where she spent her junior and senior year in the visual arts program, an experience she described as often feeling like attending college a few years early.
In college, she produced works with carnival-esque themes. The line-work and her carefully honed palette are visible already. She shifted into abstraction, often complementing geometric forms by pouring pigment and allowing it to pool into organic shapes.
Since moving to Montana two years ago, Mikolon has shown her work in group exhibitions, such as the annual Mini Benefit auction at Zootown Arts Community Center, and "The Changing Moment," a juried group exhibition at the Radius Gallery last summer. A residency at the Montana Natural History Center also grounds her work in the natural world: She taught classes for children and adults, led open drawing hours and could use specimens from the collection there for her own work, using bones for instance, as the basis for drawings and paintings that are still rooted partly in abstraction. She held a First Friday exhibition there last year, making Bernice's her second solo show in Missoula.
For her next series, she might focus on much larger works on panel, in which the scale might change the feeling: larger, gestural strokes alongside the minute lines.