Margaret Miller's oil paintings of Texas landscapes in Archway Gallery's new show, "Sky, Trees and Earth," are not as banal as the straightforward title may imply. They're certainly pleasing, as even mediocre landscape paintings can be, but they're also strikingly detailed and have a sense of humor about them.
There's a prolific mix of large (about 30"x40") and exceptionally small (8"x8") landscapes on display at the Dunlavy Street artist cooperative, of which Miller is a three-year member. The sky, trees and earth are inspired by places like Brazos Bend State Park and the Texas Hill Country. You might recognize those you're familiar with, though Miller leaves little hints beyond names like "Texas Sunset" or "Afternoon in Texas."
There's a warmth and vibrancy in her touch and use of color that comes out in works like "Texas Sunset," which gives off all the warmth of the real thing with its violets and oranges. That same orange comes back unexpectedly in the companion pieces, "Live Oaks" and "Live Oak Trail," in little splashes throughout the sky and grass. Before getting too sentimental, Miller's not afraid to muck up her pretty, perfect landscapes with jolts of color.
Of the bigger paintings, the less realistic a landscape, the better. Impressionist works like "Lotus Flowers" and "Nightfall," for instance, played with light and color to beautiful effect. The humorously named "Watch Out for the Bees" turned the ground into an angry sea of green and orange, the latter painted on in an unusually thick impasto in hectic, scattered dashes. You can just imagine Miller out in the field busily sketching in her notebook and hear the bees buzzing around her.
In total there are 36 works on display, though it might feel like you've missed a few. The smaller works are easy to miss, displayed between the larger works, on tables, on the sides of walls, in between windows and even behind the office desk. The exquisite detail is also harder to pull off on this scale. They make for nice, relatively inexpensive options for the art collector, but I would rather have sacrificed the display of these handheld pieces to make for a less cluttered show. You then could spend time with the rest of the works and take care to watch out for the bees.
"Sky, Trees and Earth" is on view at Archway Gallery, 2305 Dunlavy, now through August 30. For more information, call 713-522-2409 or visit www.archwaygallery.com.